Hayek for the 21st Century

Biographer Bruce Caldwell on the Road to Serfdom author's enduring lessons about bad planning, distributed information, and the liberating power of choice.

In 1944, with World War II raging and the fate of the Free World far from clear, Friedrich A. Hayek (1889�1992), one of the great intellectual heroes of reason, published his best-known work. The Road to Serfdom became a bestseller even as it challenged the conventional wisdom that extensive, top-down economic planning would result in a more just and more efficient distribution of goods and services. Hayek, an Austrian who had immigrated to England, argued that such planning ultimately would lead to a stultifying society in which fewer and fewer people were satisfied as planners asserted more control. What's more, he drew disturbing connections between developments in relatively free societies such as Great Britain and the United States and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The Road to Serfdom was a publishing sensation but, as we noted in our "35 Heroes of Freedom" (December 2003), Hayek "paid a steep price--decades-long professional isolation--for daring to suggest that social democracy had something in common with collectivist tyrannies of the right and left." In the sort of happy ending history rarely delivers, Hayek, who was awarded a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, lived long enough to see his reputation restored and his ideas vindicated by world events, a tale told well in Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw's magisterial 1998 economic history, The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Road to Serfdom, reason interviewed Hayek's most recent explicator, Bruce Caldwell, author of Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek, published in 2003 by the University of Chicago Press. Caldwell is a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and the general editor of The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek. In early October, he spoke with reason Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie about the origins of The Road to Serfdom, its continuing relevance, and Hayek's legacy in the 20th century--and in the 21st.

Reason: The Road to Serfdom was published in 1944. How did the book come into being?

Bruce Caldwell: In the 1930s, Hayek was writing articles criticizing the economics of socialism. Most people then saw socialism as the middle way between failed capitalism and totalitarianism of the Soviet and fascist varieties. By the late '30s, Hayek felt that he needed to write a broad-based attack on socialism. In Hayek's Challenge, I mention [sociologist] Karl Mannheim in particular as a figure who argued that planning was the only way to avoid totalitarianism, but everyone was making a similar sort of argument. Hayek turned that on its head and said that extensive planning of the economy was in fact the road to serfdom, to less and less freedom.

He was engaging a widespread belief that socialism was not only more just but more efficient than capitalism, that it was the way to make the world work better. Not just economics should be planned. Science should be planned. Everything should be planned. There was an influential magazine around at the time called Science. Virtually every third or fourth week, they'd run an editorial that said we need to have scientists helping plan all sorts of things. Not just the war effort, but everything about the economy to make it work better. This is what everyone who was "intelligent" thought.

If you look at the early 1930s, there was this sense that the Soviet Union had a huge commitment to science and scientific progress. Beatrice and Sidney Webb's two-volume, 1,000-page Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1935) was filled with praise for the way the Russians were supposedly letting science work to make society much better. By the late '30s, once the purges and other things came to light, many people realized the Soviet Union was a monstrosity, but if you look a bit earlier, that wasn't the case. Hayek was reacting to books such as the Webbs'. Living in the current world, you have a hard time believing what sorts of things were being said back then that Hayek was reacting to.

Reason: What was the response when Serfdom first hit the bookstores?

Caldwell: The book appeared in England in March of 1944 and in the U.S. in September. He had a hard time getting an American publisher, but the University of Chicago agreed to bring it out. It was not expected to be a big seller in the U.S. They were figuring that it would maybe sell a couple of thousand copies, but it got very strong write-ups in a couple of the New York newspapers and demand was high for it. They did second and third printings, and in the spring of 1945 the Reader's Digest condensed version came out. That was done by [high-profile former communist] Max Eastman. That certainly made it [much] more popular and it got even more attention.

Hayek came over to the States on a ship in 1945 to do a publicity tour. He thought he was going to be mostly speaking at academic departments, but he ended up having big audiences.

Reason: Give us the stripped-down version of The Road to Serfdom's thesis.

Caldwell: Let's say you agree that the definition of socialism is the ownership of the means of production by the state. That means the state is making decisions about production. Under a wartime scenario this can work and even be productive, because everyone has shared values. Everyone believes that production should be aimed toward anything that is necessary to defeat the enemy.

Hayek's point is that when people are not under war conditions, they have many different values. So the question then becomes, if you have socialism, who makes the decision of what gets produced? If people have different values, they are going to disagree with the planners. The planners end up being frustrated because they are unable to decide what to produce and gain full consensus. So they completely take over the production process. Hayek argues that you can't make that neat separation between economics and politics that implicitly fills in the claims of the socialists.

In terms of the kind of full-blown socialism that Hayek was describing, I think his argument was shown to be absolutely correct. States that went to full socialization of production also placed considerable restrictions on personal liberty and decision making. You don't get the kind of choice that you get under a more liberal system...

Reason: ...choice very broadly defined, meaning lifestyle choice...

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  • ||

    I think they're in love.

  • sarcasmic||

    He was engaging a widespread belief that socialism was not only more just but more efficient than capitalism, that it was the way to make the world work better.

    Well, duh. I mean, all those greedy capitalists care about is profits, and profits are waste. Central planning eliminates wasteful profits, and thus makes everything cheaper and more efficient. All right-thinking people know this. Anyone who says otherwise is an apologist for the rich.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    The problem is that it seems so plausible at first blush, especially because people subconsciously see society as static; most of us still are momentarily surprised when movie stars or relatives get older and vanish from life. Socialism in a static society could be gradually fine tuned into a semblance of efficiency, but the slightest upset -- a new way to make steel -- would snowball into requiring a complete restart.

    At least that's my take on why the idea of scientifically planning more and more of society is such a strong lure. The problem is those who cling to this childish belief and rise to positions of power. The solution is to prevent positions of power having any coercive power.

  • sarcasmic||

    Good points.

  • Ted Levy||

    Hayek did not live for more than a century. His birth year was 1899, not 1889.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    collectivist tyrannies of the right and left.

    aka fascism and socialism.

    Or if you prefer Team Red and Team Blue.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've noticed that people who liken conservatism to fascism have no fucking clue about what fascism is.

    You are no exception.

    Now get on the bus. It's time to take you to the zoo.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfrQ8ZutmLE

  • tarran||

    For example, France and Turkey are both fascist countries, and they are unabashedly not right wing.

  • Tony||

    Authoritarian, nationalistic, and right-wing describe fascism.

    Granted, American conservatives hate America right now because it has a black president, but all the right impulses are still there.

  • tarran||

    LOL

    Numerous aspects of the New Deal were lifted from Mussolini's policies by FDR and his brain trust.

    Are you arguing that FDR was right wing, Tony? I mean, we know you are ignorant about many things, but is your ignorance so pervasive?

  • Tony||

    I'm arguing in favor of the dictionary definition and general understanding of a word.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    You mean the dictionary which translates NAZI into National Socialism?

  • tarran||

    The dictionary definition of fascism is a reactionary totalitarian political/economical system that has the state directing the means of production while retaining their nominal ownership in private hands.

    It's associated with right wing states solely because the right often advocated for it an an anti-communist measure.

    The French, though, went fascist as a way of neutering the Catholic church and the other right-wing institutions and classes that had lost their primacy in the French Revolution.

    Being reactionary, it's right-wing/left-winginess is entirely predicated on what external threat the fascists are wetting their pants over.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Mussolini only bolted from Communism because he didn't want to deal with a Politburo. (Apparently, even Stalin's fig leaf was too much for him.) Later, he deviated from full economic control because it was a pain in the ass to coordinate all that. But he had the realization that so long as he total political control, nominally private economic interests didn't matter.

    So essentially, Fascism was lazy Communism.

  • ||

    American progressives like Tony tend to confuse the conservatism of the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries right up until today as "right-wing."

    Back then, all the morally and intellectually defunct movements - like socialism, communism, and yes, fascism tended to find their origins in liberalism - or if you prefer, the disintegration of liberalism as understood and bequeathed by The Enlightenment.

    Conservatives were a consistent objector to the insanity that was all around them. Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler and everyone in between never were conservatives. You can claim anything else from nihilists to totalitarians; from socialist to communist - whatever. But what they each were NOT was conservative in its classical form.

  • DarrenM||

    Numerous aspects of the New Deal were lifted from Mussolini's policies by FDR and his brain trust.

    Mussolini was originally a socialist. He was more revolutionary, though, and a tad impatient. So after his experience in WW I which convinced hiim that militarizing society was more efficient, he came up with 'Fascism', a 'middle way' between Communism and liberalism (as defined in Europe at the time).

  • ||

    Tony!

    Psh.

  • ||

    "American conservatives hate America right now because it has a black president."

    Generalization much? Citation?

  • ||

    Because he said so, duh!

  • GregMax||

    Authoritarian and nationalistic are reasonably objective terms. "Right-wing" is not. It is completely arbitrary jargon used to infect the conversation with the kind of cheap crap that you often see in ideological discussions. Just toss in "racism" and it goes poof!
    Bottom-line is that people want to either control their own lives (to some degree) or want to control the lives of others. Using the dictionary or general understanding does nothing to promote a flow of ideas.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    So people in the 21st century must be getting a feeling of deja vu about Hayek's ideas from the 20th.

  • Tony||

    Silly fetish for emergent order.

    Everyone plans. CEOs plan. Workers plan. Governments plan. Children plan. Human decision making contributes to any social outcome at any scale.

    Why is everything that is supposedly good for society as a whole not practiced by individual businesses? They don't sit around and let chips fall where they may. They plan. They're also mini-totalitarian societies, for that matter.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Sure, other than the part where they don't have a monopoly of force. So there's that.

  • Tony||

    Non sequitur

  • ||

    Well that and the small fact that they are completely voluntary.

  • DarrenM||

    Well that and the small fact that they are completely voluntary.

    We'll have to fix that problem.

  • sarcasmic||

    Human decision making contributes to any social outcome at any scale.

    Yup. That's what emergent order is. Order that emerges from individuals planing for themselves. Right on the money. Glad you're on our page.

  • Tony||

    Except the "order" that emerges from a laissez-faire system is largely undesirable.

  • tarran||

    Except the "order" that emerges from a laissez-faire system is largely undesirable

    Poor people getting stuff that only the rich could afford a generation before is undesirable?

    Do tell, Tonykins!

  • Tony||

    Oh is that what happens.

  • Jordan||

    So people still live in caves and forage for food where you live?

  • ||

    You stupid fool, those aren't iPhones the people in the ghetto's are using, they're iPhonz.

    /repeat for any product that even 20 years ago would have only been in the hands of a few wealthy elites and celebrities.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. The highest standard of living in the history of mankind is largely undesirable.

  • tarran||

    Actually, we are being unfair to Tony. It's not the improved standard of living for the poor that bothers him. It's something else, and he's willing to fuck the poor in order to prevent it form happening.

    You are actually missing Tony's main point: We libertarians aren't envious enough!

    Haven't you noticed all the digs about people starving so that a billionaire can drive a Bugatti Veyron?

    We say "keep your mits to yourself!" But when one does that someone might amass alot of wealth! To an envious person this is a big problem. To a libertarian, it's not a problem at all - so long as the wealth is amassed through production and/or voluntary trade.

    Now serious students of economic history recognize that in the presence of free markets, you get a large middle class, some rich people, and a shrinking pool of people in poverty. It wasn't the existence of unions, for example, that ensured that a poor woman had access to stockings that 100 years previously were only available to the very wealthy. It was the expansion of production prompted by the opportunity to get rich off of one's own labors.

    But to the envious, the very existence of the wealthy is the problem. To them it's as much a crime as a mugger taking someone's baby's milk-money is to us.
  • tarran||

    I think this is the cause of Tony's frustration. A very envious person thinks it's OK to take stuff that other people has because it's intolerable that they don't share their good fortune. Or, if they are opposed to taking, using force to prevent someone from getting more stuff.
    Consider Paris Hilton, for example. Now, I think we can all stipulate that Paris Hilton will consume far more than she produces. And her consumption is so frivolous as completely revolt my half Scotch-Yankee love of frugality.

    However, the wealth she consumes was amassed by people who loved her and gave it to her, and to a libertarian the fact that her dad and granddad wanted her to have that wealth they had worked so hard to produce is sufficient reason for her to have it.

    Someone filled with envy, though, looks at Paris Hilton and screams she doesn't deserve that wealth, decent people do! They view her as being the beneficiary of a natal lottery, and rather than seeing her wealth as a gift of love, view it as a theft from their pockets.

    This is why I don't think Tony will ever accept all the evidence thrown at him that he is wrong. Because to admit that forcible redistribution of wealth away from the halves would require him to confront the envy & greed that is the core of his being. Far more comfortable to repeatedly type out the same jingoistic slogans and to close his mind to reason.
  • Tony||

    I have lots of money. I am not envious of anyone, except maybe someone with better abs. You have absolutely no evidence of your accusation of envy, so it can only be the case that you are a pathetic slavish brownshirt toadie ball-licker of the rich.

    Record levels of wealth inequality, almost every cent of the economic growth of the past few decades going to the very wealthiest individuals--if that's the product of a free and fair market, then a free market is pointless. If it's not the product of a free market, then why are you defending it?

  • tarran||

    You have absolutely no evidence of your accusation of envy, so it can only be the case that you are a pathetic slavish brownshirt toadie ball-licker of the rich.

    ROFL!

    Your choice of insults fatally contradicts your thesis Tonykins. I mean you didn't even make it out of your first paragraph without tripping over your own shoelaces! Come on man! Surely you can do better! HAve some pride!

    Record levels of wealth inequality, almost every cent of the economic growth of the past few decades going to the very wealthiest individuals--if that's the product of a free and fair market, then a free market is pointless.

    But you're not suffering from envy.... Interesting.

  • tarran||

    I really think I should repost something I wrote in response to Tony's superstitious concerns that free trade would reduce him to abject poverty:


    How much does wealth have to be concentrated

    Tony, sweetie, in a free society, wealth doesn't get concentrated. It gets expanded.

    If the expansion accrues more to some other guy than to me, it doesn't bother me. Your question is as ridiculous as asking someone how many men will be allowed to partner with other men and thus give up fathering children before we will wake up to the danger posed to society by allowing gay cohabitation.

    The fact is that under a libertarian social order, there is a limit to how much wealth an entity can amass - the more resources a person controls, the larger the economic calculation problem that von Mises identified and Hayek expounded upon. An unusually productive person or group of people might temporarily - through serving consumers of their services/products especially well - acquire vast amounts of wealth, but in administering that wealth, above a certain limit, they will do more poorly than people who command a more manageable amount of resources.
  • tarran||

    In a libertarian economic order, the only way that they can amass that wealth is by convincing their trading partners that the trades will make the partners better off, and to sustain such a business model, the partners have to be better off.

    Thus in the libertarian economic order, a Bill Gates can only become mega rich by making his customers even richer! For every dollar he gets, he has to be providing something that makes his trading partners think they are more than a dollar richer! Granted, this may mean he gets a dollar richer while 115 men get a penny richer thanks to their dealings with him, leaving you appalled at the concentration of wealth, while I cheer the economic expansion.

    The notion that in a libertarian political and economic order that Bill Gates could become so wealthy as to hold all the wealth in the world, while the rest of us toil under his five-year plans for the rubles he deigns to throw our way is laughable. There’s a reason why planned economies falter: no entity can rationally allocate resources, be it a Bill Gates or a Commerce Secretary or a House Commerce Oversight Sub-Committee.

    I should finish that once the resources that Bill Gates possesses exceed his ability to more profitably allocate them than the resources less wealthy people command, he will start losing market share to these upstarts (assuming they are chasing the same consumers).

  • ||

    You have absolutely no evidence of a lot of things you assert, To. May I call you, To?

    Tarran, that's exactly how they see it. Whether they are envious I don't know but I have a liberal friend who has a rabid hatred for inheritance because the "kids are useless fucks living off the system." To him, he equates a welfare bum to the heir of a fortune. To me, they're not the same. The wealthy person living in decadence is squandering the family's wealth; not the the government.

    But he doesn't see it that way.

    His line of thinking always gives an opening to things like arbitrary redistribution and appropriation and confiscation and so on of earned wealth created.

    It all boils down to one thing with left-wingers: They are lovers of coerced action to further their own takes on what life oughta be. They have no qualms squashing individual rights so long as it comes with the "for the children and society" tag. They're totalitarians. They're the last people who should know where the guns are.

  • sarcasmic||

    It all boils down to one thing with left-wingers: They are lovers of coerced action to further their own takes on what life oughta be.

    Yep. That's why they like everything to be done by government. Because they worship violence.

  • ||

    pathetic slavish brownshirt toadie ball-licker of the rich

    Ooo, watch out tarran, this kitty has claws. (Not really)

    (Actually, that was quite a bit of invective. I think you hit a lot closer to home than "Tony" likes.)

  • sarcasmic||

    Record levels of wealth inequality, almost every cent of the economic growth of the past few decades going to the very wealthiest individuals--if that's the product of a free and fair market, then a free market is pointless.

    Again Tony shows that he does not understand the distinction between money and wealth.

    The means of production is wealth. Factories, machines and such are wealth. And they're not cheap. So if efficient production through factories and machines (and the jobs it creates) is going to happen, there must be concentrations of wealth.
    To take away concentrations of wealth is to take away the means of production, and all of society becomes poorer as a result.

    So tell us Tony, why do you want to make everyone poorer?

  • wwhorton||

    He doesn't have a problem with the aggregation of wealth at all, he just believes that it should all be held by the state. Then it can be distributed according to political clout as opposed to productive ability or skill.

  • Tony||

    The mainstream historical consensus is that the postwar (quasi-socialist) reforms are what led to that highest standard of living. They were found necessary because the prior laissez-faire regimes had left things pretty shitty for most people.

    It's cute how you guys can claim credit for anything you want just by asserting it.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Strange how GDP growth was lower under quasi-socialism than before.

  • ||

    Were you as unaware as I that FDR had instituted vast laissez-faire regimes for the twelve fucking years he was in office? Must have missed that in my history textbooks between setting the prices of things and fucking farmers in the ass for growing extra wheat.

  • sarcasmic||

    Consensus!

    derp

  • DarrenM||

    You know, if you can call something quasi-socialist, you can just as easily call it quasi-capitalist.

  • wwhorton||

    The mainstream historical consensus is that the postwar (quasi-socialist) reforms are what led to that highest standard of living.

    I'm not sure where you're getting this. The explanation for the economic boom of the 50s has typically been that the country went from the shitstorm of the Depression (not helped by FDR's various programs, btw) to a sudden injection of skilled workers in the form of returning GIs into an industrial sector that had expanded dramatically in support of the war effort. The end of wartime embargoes and rationing coupled with income earned during time in the military and well-paying jobs at home resulted in a large population of employed workers with money to spend and stuff to spend it on. The standard of living was a result of conventional market forces, not economic reform.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If a corporation was run by having the Board of Directors make every plan for every business unit, it would go out of business very quickly.

    Yet there are idiots who think you can run a national economy that way.

  • SForza||

    Tony, clearly you know nothing about emergent order.

    Tony, clearly you know nothing.

  • Tony||

    I know that you guys fetishize the concept without paying attention to its limitations.

    People do not spontaneously generate the institutions generally regarded as essential to modern civilization. An efficient highway system does not organically emerge from individual market decisions. Planning is planning. If it's not evil at the individual or small-group level, why is it evil at the policymaking level?

  • sarcasmic||

    RRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDSSSSSSSS!

    Reductio ad Somaliasm!

  • Tony||

    Do you guys get together, figure out the absolute best slam-dunk arguments against your bullshit, and then determine a way to mock them so that they are inadmissible?

    If you don't want to talk about roads then explain how an efficient transportation system can come about without planning in a free market. If you can't do that, then you don't deserve to mock the argument.

  • sarcasmic||

    To put it simply, you're wrong. Not only are you wrong, but your ignorance is willful. Even when someone points out the truth, you willfully ignore it. Pathetic. That's what you are, Tony. Pathetic.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ji.....-possible/

  • ||

    Tony, jesus fucking christ. It took me one god damn hour on Reason a few years ago to understand the underpinning value in the libertarian thought process: No coercion.

    It is completely unacceptable for you to keep coming here and making all sorts of claims while disregarding this key ingredient. In doing so, I conclude you're either very stupid or a jerk.

    To wit, keeping in mind (snap, snap consistency please; something left-wingers are horrible at because they lack, seemingly, discipline) planning at the INDIVIDUAL level generally, you know, is productive and VOLUNTARY whatever the results are.

    Policymaking is made by BUREAUCRATS (with little or no consultations from the people they intend to impose their policies on) which often comes with a final "this is law and you must follow or face fines or jail." In other words, COERCED.

    In my case, many of the laws in place in my town work AGAINST me and my business.

  • sarcasmic||

    In doing so, I conclude you're either very stupid or a jerk.

    I think it's a bit of both. One thing I have concluded is that he is incapable of abstract thought. There are some comment trolls on cafehayek.com that are the same way. They cannot grasp abstract reasoning. And you cannot understand Hayek's teachings without being able to think in the abstract.

  • ||

    If a leftie and a rightie were in a room and given a set of options to build their private lives and the society in which they belong, I bet you the rightie would stay the course with the ideals and values they possess.

    A leftie would abandon them because they'd realize immediately it wouldn't fly leaving them with other perhaps more pragmatic, practical options that hinge on the voluntary actions of a community committed to the same common goals and objectives. A leftie's view would hijack that.

  • sarcasmic||

    Lefties have no ideals other than might makes right. They feel that it is perfectly OK to lie, cheat, steal and even kill, if it means getting what they want. That's why they want government to do everything. Because government can lie, cheat, steal and kill without consequence.

  • tarran||

    The difference, Tonykins, is that the people making the plans cannot compel anyone else to participate in the plan against their will.

    Interestingly enough, the people who first recognize and idea is a bad idea tend to be the ones who have to bear the costs or suffer the harms from it, and they tend to be the first guys to bail out of the plan. For example, among the first guys to freak out at PACA (aka Obamacare) were the labor unions who would have been fined heavily for offering too deluxe a level of health care coverage to their members per the Congressional central planners.

    Had Metlife proposed a PACA like framework for people to buy into, the labor unions would, of course, have refused to participate, and it would ahve died from lack of consumer interest.

    In our current political order, the labor unions ended up having a friendly politician exempt them (and only them) from the fines. Of course, this sort of corruption is endemic in state planning since it's essentially the only exit offered to people who are harmed by the state's central planners.

  • Tony||

    Living in a society means being compelled to do things you don't necessarily want to do--especially, say, if you're a murdering psychopath. I am not moved by the libertarian titty baby argument.

    But since you brought up healthcare, what, exactly, was preferable about the prior status quo? Not a laissez-faire system exactly but more so than any alternative in the civilized world. Yet much less efficient. NOT less efficient at delivering profits to insurance companies, but less efficient at delivering healthcare at a reasonable cost--an end that is not on anyone's radar in the free market, and that only exists among policymakers, and which can only be achieved by planning.

  • tarran||

    but less efficient at delivering healthcare at a reasonable cost--an end that is not on anyone's radar in the free market, and that only exists among policymakers, and which can only be achieved by planning.

    Oh Tony, is there no end to your ignorance?

    What was better about the previous system is that it provided better service than what is being put in place, didn't tax people who didn't want to buy a financial instrument, and most importantly, didn't punish people for purchasing the labor of other people.

    Of course, what would have been even better is if the Feds had merely repealed many laws that were purposed to make medical care more expensive and unaffordable, for example like the ones that effectively outlawed lodge practice.

    Eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem. And boy, did it solve it!
  • tarran||

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the primary sources of health care and health insurance for the working poor in Britain, Australia, and the United States was the fraternal society. Fraternal societies (called "friendly societies" in Britain and Australia) were voluntary mutual-aid associations. Their descendants survive among us today in the form of the Shriners, Elks, Masons, and similar organizations, but these no longer play the central role in American life they formerly did. As recently as 1920, over one-quarter of all adult Americans were members of fraternal societies. (The figure was still higher in Britain and Australia.) Fraternal societies were particularly popular among blacks and immigrants. (Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt's famous attack on "hyphenated Americans" was motivated in part by hostility to the immigrants' fraternal societies; he and other Progressives sought to "Americanize" immigrants by making them dependent for support on the democratic state, rather than on their own independent ethnic communities.)
  • ||

    It's no use arguing healthcare with Tony (even if he's not a sock). The dumb motherfucker thinks you have a right to force someone to provide you medical care.

  • ||

    The problem is, and this still befuddles me, despite Americans consistently polling against Obamacare, they didn't hate it enough to boot Obama out of office so as to give repealing or defunding it a real chance.

    I'm afraid they're stuck with it. Unless 2014 changes this assertion?

  • tarran||

    Do you seriously think Romney was going to fight Obamacare?

    Remember, Romneycare was the template that Obamacare was based on. I suspect Romney lost largely because he failed to articulate that he would be a philosophically coherent alternative to Obama, and many people who wanted such coherence stayed home.

    Romney was a Massachusetts technocrat. Obamacare is precisely the sort of abortion they routinely generate.

  • ||

    Hell, if he'd said that he was ashamed that he had let it pass during his tenure as governor and pointed out how it's not working there and that's why he would work to actively repeal Ocare, he would have gotten at least a little bit of a bump.

    I mean I still wouldn't have voted for him, but I'd at least respect him (as much as I respect any politician).

  • sarcasmic||

    if he'd said that he was ashamed that he had let it pass during his tenure as governor and pointed out how it's not working there

    That's against the rules of politics.
    It's OK to point out the mistakes of people in the other party, but you never ever ever under any circumstances ever admit that yourself or someone in your party made a mistake. Ever.

  • DarrenM||

    Living in a society means being compelled to do things you don't necessarily want to do

    Of course it does, but not everything must be compelled. A great deal of thought must be put into anything that will require compulsion and the arguments should satisfy the great majority of the pupulace (not just 50%). It (compelling people) should be entered into *very* reluctantly as it's hard to back out once those doing the compelling find they are allowed to get away with it. We could use a lot more humility and prudence in government, but it's highly unlikely we'll see much of either any time soon.

  • DarrenM||

    Living in a society means being compelled to do things you don't necessarily want to do

    Of course it does, but not everything must be compelled. A great deal of thought must be put into anything that will require compulsion and the arguments should satisfy the great majority of the pupulace (not just 50%). It (compelling people) should be entered into *very* reluctantly as it's hard to back out once those doing the compelling find they are allowed to get away with it. We could use a lot more humility and prudence in government, but it's highly unlikely we'll see much of either any time soon.

  • ||

    There should be a caption contest based on that picture.

  • DarrenM||

    extensive, top-down economic planning would result in a more just and more efficient distribution of goods and services

    This is probably right... if it were done by some omniscient, all-powerful being, but I suspect God may prefer we figure this kind of thing out ourselves.

  • DarrenM||

    Most people then saw socialism as the middle way between failed capitalism and totalitarianism of the Soviet and fascist varieties.

    What's funny is that at the time Fascism was supposed to be the "middle way".

  • linda.j||

    my Aunty Lily just got yellow Mercedes-Benz S-Class S65 AMG by working online at home. this hyperlink...max38.com

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