I’m heading to State College tonight, and I’ve been spending this afternoon in Washington reading and working a bit. Here’s a late afternoon view from M Street near the Key Bridge:
Here’s a passage from The Road to Serfdom that someone shared earlier today, appropriate for this election season:
There can be no doubt that most of those in the democracies who demand a central direction of all economic activity still believe that socialism and individual freedom can be combined. Yet socialism was early recognized by many thinkers as the greatest threat to freedom.
It is rarely remembered now that socialism in its beginnings was frankly authoritarian. It began quite openly as a reaction against the liberalism of the French Revolution. The French writers who laid its foundations had no doubt that their ideas could be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial government. The first of modern planners, Saint-Simon, predicted that those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be “treated as cattle”.
Nobody saw more clearly than the great political thinker de Tocqueville that democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,” he said. “Democracy attaches all possible value to each man,” he said in 1848, “while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives—the craving for freedom—socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom”. Socialism was to bring “economic freedom” without which political freedom was “not worth having”.
To make this argument sound plausible, the word “freedom” was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion…
We’re living through the playing out of the logic of centuries-old social/political disputes.