Tim Dunkin: The Expressway to Serfdom

In 1944, Friedrich von Hayek wrote what was to become a seminal work in the history of modern Western liberty philosophy, The Road to Serfdom. In it, he argued that it is the inherent and inevitable nature of collectivism, as it takes to pieces the system of free-market enterprise that has brought so much good to so many people, to enslave individuals, destroy their personal freedoms, and subject them to tyranny. Socialism, by its very nature, would lead to the rise of a bureaucratic class that would receive greater "discretionary" powers, the authority to act outside of strictly constitutional or other "rule-of-law" frameworks, often for the purpose of coercing truculent individuals into obedience to the state and its programs. The terror of such systems is compounded, he observed, by the fact that those bureaucrats who were most ruthless are the ones who end up rising the highest within the collectivist system, thereby ensuring that the destruction wrought upon individual liberties and individual dignity would be maximized.

In his day, Hayek observed this very thing taking place in Germany and the Soviet Union, two nations where tyranny had, in fact, resulted from the imposition of collectivist governments. His observations, however, apply equally well to nations with democratic systems, but which take a collectivist route. As the state obtains greater power over greater areas of social and individual life, it reduces the liberties of the citizenry, especially in those areas which pertain most directly to the ability of citizens to operate independently of government "assistance" or control. This is most obvious in the nations of Western Europe, which while having ostensibly democratic governments in place, nevertheless cannot be said to be free societies anymore. From Britain to Greece, Spain to Sweden, the average citizen in these nations cannot freely own a gun or can only do so under very stringent regulation (with Switzerland being the obvious exception here). In these nations, freedom of speech is curtailed and allowed only in those areas which the government deems "acceptable" (if you don't believe me, try going to Western Europe and openly criticizing homosexuality or Islam). In these nations, the average citizen has very little control over the education of his own children — observe the laws in Germany which completely outlaw homeschooling, and under which several Russo-German fathers have recently been jailed for preventing their own children from being exposed to perverted "sex ed" classes in the German public schools.

Many examples could be given, but in each of these cases, the freedoms lost are those that pertain, in some form or fashion, to the ability of the individual to be independent from the government program. Whether it's self-defense, the ability to dissent openly from the state's version of political correctness, or to regulate what the state puts into your child's head, all of these are liberties that lessen the power of the state over the individual. Sure, in Western European countries, the individual can still freely access all kinds of movies and other entertainment. He can still take a holiday in the Riviera and run the beaches naked. Yes, he can choose which leftist propaganda sheet to buy each day. But his essential freedom to live apart from government regulation, coercion, and obstruction has been severely compromised. While having a few tidbits of what he thinks are freedom (but which are often, in fact, moral enslavement), the European today has lost his essential ability to live as a free man. All because of the overweening power of the socialistic governments, with their ever-increasing appetite for tax money and the power that derives from social spending, which were put into place starting in the early part of the 20th century.

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