The Road to Serfdom

I have been reading Hayek’s best-selling cult book The Road to Serfdom and the problem is that I don’t know if it is the 1930s again. According to my experience the last 13 years a new type of fascism is back to haunt us. The problem is I don’t know how spread these practices are. In Sweden they could be, as Hayek suggests, the result of years of social democracy that has formed the nation of Sweden.

Behavior wise this might be derived from the need from societal guidance rather than individualism where more people have things to say about each person’s behavior and thus there would be more occasions for punishment which could act over the years. People that are more orderly could suffer from greater risk of cyclically develop fascism. There is a problem with political violence currently.

According to Hayek individualism promotes a social process of super-individual forces that drives the growth of reason. I must say I buy into this principle all the way. It is the same principle that makes basic science work to the benefit of mankind. Hayek said that tending a civilization as a gardener tends a plant by understanding its structure and function is the best approach. Only one civilization bloomed so far in the 1500s to 1600s and this has fertilized all others.

Another point Hayek might have made is that freedom is more important than security, what is called “trygghet” in Swedish. The US is less secure than Europe and risk taking is something that the Americans are fond of. They lie closer to the edge and try more things and it is possible to come back after a bankruptcy. What would be interesting to know if this attitude difference has anything to do with the proficiency and creativity in science as well as in business? Business pays in a way for science so there is definitely an indirect effect. American freedom has lured many a scientist and innovator to the US though, despite of less security.

A person like Hayek is not throwing people on the street though. He says in 1944: “but there can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity for work, can be assured to everybody”. This sounds like an ordinary Swedish “försörjningsstöd”. What is becoming more of an issue these days, and which is more readily state by Americans, is that the European welfare model could turn out to be too expensive when four times as many people from China and India is joining the race. The Italian welfare minister cried in public when the new technocrat prime minister laid down his new budget.

Individualism breeds tolerance the lack of which is an increasing problem in Europe the last years. Right wing populism is back and in Hungary Victor Orban is trying to make his country more autocratic which luckily the EU is trying to prevent and is reacting on. Well, how serious is the situation? What bothers me is that everyone is trying to tell me that I should not complain and that I exaggerate. However, if I can’t complain on what I have encountered, there is real trouble in Europe.

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