Nov 19, 201202:35 PMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
Take the road to Hayek for those post-election blues
Cannot believe I survived five years of college (“down the drain,” a la Bluto Blutarski) without having read Friedrich A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The suspicion is that the book is not listed on the typical college curricula. I’m doing my remedial reading now. Hayek is a 1974 Nobel Prize winner; a founder of the Austrian School of Economics, with Joseph Schumpeter and Ludwig von Mises; and the intellectual godfather of Milton Friedman, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Paul Ryan, the foil of John Maynard Keynes.
Hayek is a bracing tonic (twist of lime, dash of Bombay gin) for your post-Nov. 6 election blues.
Serfdom was published in 1944 while World War II raged and, amazingly, Hayek warned that, under the stealth banner of progressivism, the democracies were traveling the same road as socialism and fascism. All three philosophies promise(d) progress but at the expense of freedom:
The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be taken out of politics and placed in the hands of experts – permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies.
(More Hayek here.) Think of the Wisconsin State Journal demanding “merit selection” of judges by unelected bodies. Or the Government Accountability Board and Federal Election Commission determining what is permissible political speech. Or the Madison Common Council ordering landlords to direct tenants to the nearest voting booth. Or the EPA prohibiting ethanol producers from releasing corn needed in a drought year for food production. The toxin lives wherever self-appointed experts fear the unenlightened will make the “wrong” decision.
How does one ‘require’ reading a book about freedom?
Margaret Thatcher is said to have kept a copy in her handbag. Dissidents in Communist eastern Europe were said to surreptitiously pass copies amongst each other, but then, they believed in Ronald Reagan’s strategy for the Cold War. “We win.” Silly eastern Europeans!
In Sunday’s New York Times book section, P.J. O’Rourke is asked, “If you could require the president to read one book ....” He answers Road to Serfdom, while admitting that “being a native German-speaker, Hayek strings together railroad sentences ending in train wreck verbs.”
Lo! (and behold!), the same section reviews a biography of the late Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist. “When he left Shorewood (Wisconsin), Rehnquist began his conservative Pilgrim’s Progress. He enlisted to fight in World War II and eagerly read The Road to Serfdom …. Later, as a Stanford undergraduate, he fell under the sway of a prominent conservative ....
His reading of Hayek was “eager.” He did not study under an esteemed professor but, like an urchin pickpocket in a Dickens novel, “fell under the sway of ....” On the high court:
His rulings ... were a somber drumbeat of rejections of the claims of blacks, women, workers and criminal defendants.
Virtually the entire Obama coalition! Well, you get the drift. The Rehnquist biography is a hit job – as if the book’s very title, The Partisan, was not a giveaway) and the New York Times review only piles on. What does one expect from a reviewer, Adam Cohen, who had served on the New York Times editorial board and wrote a hagiography of FDR?
Now it’s my turn to pile on. Cohen terms Serfdom as “Friedrich Hayek’s classic anti-Communist manifesto.” Which tells me the fool hath read not his Hayek. The book is an anti-statist manifesto.
For an easier read, P.J. and The Blaska recommend Friedman’s Free to Choose (if you so choose). While we’re at it, send this six-minute video to your young scholar’s mobile computing device.
For extra credit, my man Friedman uses the pencil to illustrate “the real nature of freedom” is “a free market that works to enable millions of people to cooperate peacefully.”
The great insight behind the free market is that is not a zero sum game; that it is possible for both people in a transaction to benefit.
Memo to Zach Brandon: flood the zone with Uncle Miltie and Freddie Hayek. We need them now more than ever.
The nursery for higher office
Amazing how the Dane County Board has been a proving ground for the state Legislature. Elected to the Assembly on Nov. 6 were county board members Melissa Sargent and Diane Hesselbein. They join my former colleagues Brett Hulsey and Terese Berceau. I served also with Mark Miller and Mark Pocan and just missed Tammy Baldwin. All Democrats, of course. My friend Lyman Anderson left the county board for one term in the Assembly, bucking the GOP debacle year of 1976, then returned after his single term. Jonathan Barry beat him in 1978 as a Democrat. Rick Skindrud, a classmate of Baldwin’s, also won election to the Assembly as a Republican.
I say “amazing” because I can’t think of a single Madison Common Council member to move on to the state Legislature. Why that, do you suppose?
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