Never mind the title - I am just poking at the visceral way we are drawn to dramatically phrased promises to reveal "The Real Truth", or something like that, especially with hints that this is just for you, the people who aren't easily duped. I think we are hard-wired that way -- at any rate, I can feel my own blood rising a bit looking at some book title promising to reveal "What they don't want you to know", or "The secret history of X", and in our political debates, whether it's Hayek's book, Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascists: the Secret History of the American Left..., An Inconvenient Truth, or The Real Anita Hill, this handy way of getting our attention has been leaned on heavily. I'd hate to have to guess how many books has "secret history" in their title.
And so, F. A. Hayek, writing originally in 1944, and very alarmed, for excellent reasons, at the way the world was going, promised to reveal the counterintuitive (to some people) truth that the shining path to the future that supposedly ran through the abolition of private ownership was a "Road to Serfdom", and that all government "planning" puts us on a slippery slope leading to that "Road to Serfdom". I agree up the the italicized part, but beyond that, have a lot of problems, and I'm afraid so did Hayek. Does a national road system or education system involve this "planning", which, he indicates we must avoid at all costs? Apparently not, since he admits (at least in 1944) that these may be necessary and legitimate. He even says, in this book, at least, that public "safety net" measures - even specifically naming universal health insurance might have a place in a nation that is not on the "road to serfdom".
I would start by saying, in substantial agreement with Hayek: In my opinion all hard core socialists and Communists failed to see that, whatever bad effects the unequal distribution of wealth may have, their alternative: "ownership by the people" was an imaginary construct more suited to mystical Hegelians, Fascists, and Nazis than to supposedly clear thinking hard headed materialist socialists.
But while "peoples ownership" of all property (or even just the "means of production") is a glib and impossible idea, we can and must talk about how the difficult business of making the "peoples' ownership" of our democratic government -- the Res Publica which is the origin of the word "republican" -- to make this "ownership" as real and substantial as possible. Can I demonstrate that this "ownership" is really workable? Not really, not now and maybe never, but I'm pretty positive there is no good alternative to wrestling with what it means to "own" a democracy. And yes, there is no other way of looking at this than as something we have to face collectively.
To be continued, and continued, and continued...
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4 years ago