Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I Read in Proverbs and “The Road to Serfdom” This Morning

This morning was one of those mornings where everything seemed to point in a very specific direction at a very specific message.

For example, I came across three verses in Proverbs 14 while reading my Bible, which read:

·         There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (v. 12)
·         The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps. (v. 14)
·         The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. (v. 18)

That was just after I finished reading over several paragraphs from Chapter 15 of F. A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” Here’s my paraphrase of what he wrote all those years ago, while WWII was still raging on thanks to the intellectual and ethical ravages of socialism (italicized lines are direct quotes):

After everything already said, it should be obvious that government won’t stop at merely controlling economic activity. Believing otherwise rests on the myth that an economy is merely a technical, logical and uncomplicated matter that can be run with only the kind of intellect and education necessary to get elected. Even if it could be strictly limited to one portion of the economy, because it doesn’t answer to anybody, any international power could easily become irresponsible and downright dictatorial. For example, if it merely ran air transport, it could influence countless other sectors based on “technical necessities” that nobody else could question. Or it could justify taking more control based on genuine or insincere humanitarian arguments about who it could help if it just had the power to do so. In other words, managing that kind of power is all but impossible…

Those proposals might sound safe at first listen, but one brief, serious consideration exposes their appalling political difficulties and moral dangers. So many people think our future economy depends on establishing almighty rulers over raw materials markets like gasoline, timber, rubber and tin. Yet that means giving certain people complete control to command entire industries and even countries. Every decision they make about who gets what and for how much would simultaneously mean that some country could or couldn’t do certain kinds of businesses. For instance, while one “protects” his friends’ and confidants’ standard of living, he automatically robs numerous others of a chance to advance their economic situations. And those others might be the poorest of the poor with no other place to turn for improvement. With basic commodities controlled by men or groups with the power to veto any suggestions they don’t like, no new businesses could emerge spontaneously, and therefore progress becomes much less likely… This… takes the power of investment and innovation from individuals and gives it to politicians.

Americans are repeatedly told that government interference is good and necessary. And too many opt to be “simple,” “believe anything” and not give another honest “thought to their steps.”

As the Bible cautions, 20th century Germany proved and today’s western world reconfirms, this way we’re headed might look nice at first glance. But the view down the road is never so pretty.

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