Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Road to Serfdom is Paved With Ignorance

Knowledge is power and informed people prefer liberty over a life of servitude. It is no wonder, then, that Hitler burned books, Stalin did not allow freedom of the press, Tito mass-murdered the intelligentsia and Pol Pot destroyed any link to modern civilization. Sometimes, however, a ruthless dictator is unnecessary for a people to embark on the road to serfdom. All that is necessary is an ignorance of the mechanics of democracy and the notion of liberty. 

If a society is not free, then it is totalitarian. Totalitarianism can come in many forms, as long as the societal system is rigged up so that crucial decisions have been taken out of the hands of free people and have been put in the hands of a ruling class -- a type of aristocracy. This aristocracy decides what is "good" and what is "bad" for the body politic; it decides what the children will be taught in school; who will be the winners and who the losers in the market.

Ignorance paves the road to serfdom. The overwhelming majority of children is educated in public schools where the curriculum is chosen by none other than government bureaucrats, who are in fact the second echelon of the aristocracy: an unproductive class that lives off the surplus created by the entrepreneurial and labor classes. It is, of course, against the interest of the aristocratic class to educate the next generation of citizens that government intervention in the market strips the working class of potential prosperity, since the surplus of their production goes to pay for the aristocracy's lack of productivity.

Similarly, it is against the interest of those living on the public tit to educate children that Socialism led to both World Wars. It was the overbearing burden of the behemoth welfare state of Kaiser's Germany that lead to her compulsion for expansion in need of cheap resources to keep propping up its social system. Hitler's National Socialist, were, first and foremost socialist. Fascism, too is a form of national socialism: the national has less to do with nationalism and more with nationalization. Under national socialism private property is nominally preserved, but, through government regulation and taxation, it is the government that directs the flow of the economy -- sounds a lot like home, it is. Imperial Japan too, was governed by a largely centralized system. It was the imminent failures of these economies that drove the need for expansion into resource-rich regions; not the thirst for blood. F.A. Hayek explains the history of socialism in Germany in fine detail in The Road to Serfdom.

Hayek's passion for a free market society was lit by Alexis De Tocqueville Democracy in America where the the Frenchman depicts the libertarian utopia that were the United States of America of the mid- 19th century. This world did exist, and it was fueled by civic diligence. According to Ron Paul's The Case for Gold, until 1986 Americans turned out to vote in elections at the rate of 90%. So what happened to American democracy? Why is it that a voter turnout of 50% these days is considered high? American politics became moderate and education became public.

Unless one is passionate for economics, the only contact he or she will have with the science of economics is in a college or university class of ECON 101. The theory taught in North American educational facilities is as presented by Paul Samuelson, a follower of John Maynard Keynes and an admirer of none other than Karl Marx. The central theme of ECON 101 is the notion of "marker failure," which brings about the urgency of government intervention. Intelligent young women and men, who have no reason to doubt the authority of their teachers, are taught that capitalism -- the societal system of free exchange of people for their own benefit -- is not as good for them as is National Socialism (i.e. corporatism), as long as the aristocracy is humane and of a good nature: if it is kind to the working man, and ruthless to the business man. No one bothers tell the students that this economics is only one among at least a dozen schools of though.

That's where the notion of "moderate" politics is given rise. Have you heard lately that there is too much partisanship in politics these days; or the cries that politics has become polarized? It seems that you can't turn on a political program these days and not hear such complaints. But are they legitimate? I believe that not to be the case.

For one, when we take a closer look at how politics is conducted in North America, whether in the US or Canada, on a federal or a state or provincial level, differences among the parties are hard to come by. And yet, we are told that the two major political blocs in the US, and their counterparts in Canada have become polar opposites. This claptrap passes as legitimate punditry because people do not engage in politics as much as citizens of a democratic society must and there is an unhealthy relationship between politics, media and the corporate world (corporatism)!

The two blocs: the supposed conservatives on the right, and the pseudo liberals on the left offering themselves onto North American voters today are more similar to each other than at any point in history, giving moderation a whole new meaning. This new meaning for moderation is not to take ideology in moderation, rather to cherry-pick and take a little from every ideology being past around. It's the same mistake that has been made ever since the idea of social-democracy came about. In A Critique of Interventionism, Ludwig Von Mises argues that there can only be either socialism or capitalism. Any combination of the two is impossible, since it ultimately leads to full-blown socialism. That is to say that an interventionist economic order, such as the one presently in place in North America where private property nominally exists, but in reality the state gets involved in the market so much -- through regulation, spending, and inflation that it inevitably leads to socialism. It is so, because of the well established principle that because unexpected consequences that arise from government intervention in the market, every intervention breeds by itself even more interventions -- ultimately ending in totalitarianism. That is of course somewhat abstract to speak of in these day, after what the world has witnessed in the past century. Though, perhaps not too paranoid considering how little is known about the worlds of US and European politics if the mid- nineteenth century.

The idea that the current political scene is too divided is non-sense. True enough, politics today can get rather personal, but that is only a product of the monotony of the offer at hand. There are no core differences in the platforms that the major political movements present: it's all a matter of superficial tinkering of whether the populace gets taxed through inflation or through taxes on the "rich" and corporate entities. In essence, they all offer the same level of limited liberty, and no one goes against the grain. And why would they, it serves politicians no practical interest to limit their own power and ability to make unearned profits by exploiting the social-democratic system. At the same time, those who are loudest in their calls for "moderation" have an interest in the keeping of the "moderatist" status quo

The trouble is that we are heading down a quasi-moderatist road of mixing all sorts of bad socioeconomic concoctions. I believe that if a party stands for liberty, it ought to stand for liberty down the line. Or for that matter if it stands for coercion and a dictatorship of the (voting) majority it ought to make that clear. That way, we can see clearly which ideology leads to ruin, and which to prosperity. Because unlike what the folks calling for moderation believe, prosperity cannot be got one way or the other: the only difference being whether you choose to be a "cruel" capitalist, or a "humane" socialist to get it. Prosperity can be got only one way: though a society based on individual liberties and strong respect for private property. When people are left to make their own decisions, they have no choice but to start learning how to make the right decision every time. How else do you think we started out as just another mammal and ended up (hopefully not quite ended) flying to the Moon? -- By making rational decision based on self-interest.

When we forfeit our ability to make decision based on our own self-interest, then we allow others to make decisions based on their self-interest without regard for us. Then we are effectively serfs to the aristocratic decision-makers.

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