In the past week, as many of my colleagues have recommended, I have started to read political analysis. The top of my list being Hayek’s Road to serfdom. A quick google search will reveal to most of you that this is a criticism of socialism and defence of capitalism from a libertarian view point. It’s important to understand which point of view this has been written from, so as to see some of the reasoning for the bias within the text. An important side note, I have not finished the text, so see this as a initial reaction and interpretation. An ‘unboxing’ if you will of Hayek’s writings.
Initially, Hayek writes to describe the similarities between the socialist views held between European states and pre-war Germany. This in itself is a idea which had previously brushed my conscience, and now having been brought to the fore front makes more sense than ever. It explains the popularity for Mussolini in a broad sense (very, very broad sense) and ties in with the whole left to right swing, which seems to be able to make a appearance in every piece of writing I do, regardless of the topic. At one point, I must go as far as to will myself to elaborate the point of the left-right cycle, and it is high up on my list of pieces to write about.
Anyway, Hayek then goes on to describe the differences between modern socialism and libertarianism, something which before in my naivety I had been oblivious to. From what I read, I could pin two things. That the basis of socialism was freedom (as he describes ‘freedom’ being economic wealth and political power’ achieved through the help of the state. This seems to be my interpretation of socialism, however as a good friend of mine once stated being a socialist himself. “Put 10 socialists in a room and ask for a definition of their belief, and you’ll get 11 answers”. Now immediately to me, from his definition, socialism contradicts itself on a basic level, promising freedom through the state. However I pose to you this, is it really freedom if you are dependent on a form of state for it? Surely that freedom can be retracted at any point, leaving the individual locked into a lifestyle much akin to the one of citizens under Stalin.
Now this is where I was really sold onto the whole liberalism idea, Hayek writes that that same freedom that socialism promises, economic wealth, political leverage ect, can be achieved through independent means, of the work of ones own back. This idea of liberalism, or more specifically individualism really appeals to me. The idea that I can essentially decide where I want to end up in society, as long as I have enough work put in. That level of work may differ depending on the background of my family, but always the same end goal is achievable. In essence, it is true freedom, as the economic power and political leverage that the individual holds has been earned by the individual, and so can only be taken away by themselves should they choose to. Of course, this is all fine and dandy considering there is little or no government intervention, which we all know leads to the laisse faire attitudes that we have seen in the past. Take late 18th and early to mid 19th century Britain, where public health was cast aside in the name of laisse faire government and vested interests.
Still, I would rather work within a society where my work is directly related to how far I will go. The next lines I write may come across as selfish or too indulgent, but I urge you to think realistically with me. Take someone from your personal life, someone that you detest, or have a hatred for. Now ask yourself, would you like to see the profit of your labour shared with that person? I personally would not, I would rather see that profit of labour solely fall to myself, upon which I could then decide whether or not to share it. Is this not a human, or even animistic approach? Why should I have to share? For the bettering of society? But what if I detest some of those within society?
It also raises the question of, where are the modern day libertarians? To me, it appears that to many of the left wing side of things, they are synonymous with socialism. Or at the very at least, socialism receives an immense amount of support from libertarians. This baffles me, as i am sure it baffled Hayek. These two principles are arguable opposed at almost all levels apart from the end goal, freedom. In addition to this, and slightly aside from the general point, from a outside perspective, most who use the term ‘liberal’ do so in reference to very socialist ideas, and in my opinion almost sully the name. I am confident that if I was to go to America, and proclaim my liberalism, I would be blanketed with the majority of Antifa sympathisers, when in reality I couldn’t disagree more. Libertarinism seems to fit more of the Republican agenda from my point of view, but I urge those vested in American politics to correct me if you will. In addition to this, how well does traditional liberalism play into modern British politics? To me it appears to fit the agenda of ‘one nation torys’ relatively well, but if anyone provides any other political alternatives, as mentioned please do not hesitate to correct me.
To me, this is what was instilled after reading at least the opening chapters of Hayek’s piece. I’d like to see this piece as more of an opening to debate or conversation rather than a statement, so I implore you. Also, I am keenly aware of the fact that some may see this a echo chamber approach, and to those critics I say this, I am fully aware of Hayek’s bias, and as a counter to it, the next book I plan on reading will be ’10 Days That Shook The World’. I am told that it is a piece of socialist praise, written from the perspective of an American socialist during the 1917 revolution. Any other recommendations from other parts of the spectrum are encouraged, and I plan to set aside more time to read now more than ever.