George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, with all their brilliance and predictive power, do not exhaust the wisdom of the 1940s, still available for deployment. Consider, for example, The Road to Serfdom, first published in 1944. Author Friedrich August Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974, explains why democratic socialism, the kind championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and such, is unachievable.
Socialism rejects free exchange and deploys a command economy. Trouble is, knowledge about the allocation of resources is dispersed among many people, with no individual or group of experts capable of acquiring it all. So economic planners are making decisions on shaky grounds, and it gets worse.
“[T]he democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans,” Hayek explains. “It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society trending towards totalitarianism.”
In a centrally planned society, “it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off—than on any positive task.”
Under socialism, Hayek explains, “a person is respected only as a member of a group and works for common ends.” Further, “once you admit that the individual is merely a means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society or the nation, most of those features of totalitarian regimes which horrify us follow of necessity.”
Under socialism, “public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken public support.” Therefore, “the minority who will retain an inclination to criticize must also be silenced.”
The machinery of monopoly becomes “identified with machinery of the state. The state becomes more identified with the interests of those who run things than with the interests of the people in general.” As Hayek observed, individual freedom “cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole society must be entirely and permanently subordinated.”
The socialist policy of Germany, “was generally held up by progressives as an example to be imitated.” Unfortunately, “few are ready to recognize that the rise of fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.” When The Road to Serfdom emerged in 1944, the war against Hitler’s National Socialist regime was still raging.
After the Allied victory in 1945, the Soviet Communist regime of Josef Stalin—Hitler’s ally under the Nazi-Soviet Pact for the first two years of the war, and a co-invader of Poland in 1939—emerged as the major threat to freedom in the world. In 1949, a group of former communists addressed the issue in The God That Failed.
Arthur Koestler, author of Darkness at Noon, witnessed Stalin’s planned famine in Ukraine. He saw “hordes of families in rags begging at the railway station” and starving children with “drumstick limbs” Koestler was told that “these were kulaks who had resisted the collectivization of the land.” For further reading see Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine.
“The Soviet dictatorship has been barren of groceries because it has been barren of liberties,” observed journalist Louis Fischer. The Soviet state, “doomed by theory to wither away, had expanded into a cruel, overgrown Frankenstein.”
As French novelist André Gide observed, “Friends of the Soviet Union refuse to see anything bad there, or at least to recognize it, so it happens that truth is spoken with hatred and falsehood with love.” In the USSR, “Pravda tells the people what they need to know, and must believe and think.”
Another contributor to The God That Failed was African American writer Richard Wright, author of Native Son and Black Boy. Wright discovered that in the Communist Party, “a man could not have his say.” Party bosses derided the black American as a “bastard intellectual” and “incipient Trotskyite” with an “anti-leadership attitude.”
The Communist Party, Wright wrote, “felt it had to assassinate me morally merely because I did not want to be bound by its decisions,” adding, “I knew that if they held state power I should have been declared guilty of treason and my execution would have followed.”
In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, executions of dissidents was standard practice. As Koestler wrote, “every one of us knows at least one friend who perished in the Arctic subcontinent of forced labor camps, was shot as a spy or vanished without a trace.”
As Hayek noted, under socialism the worst get on top, the theme Orwell explored in Animal Farm, where the pigs ruled and rats were comrades. When that happens, the clocks start striking 13.
The composite character president David Garrow charted in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, deployed the military against “climate change.” All will recall with pride that big turning point in World War II, when a bunch of rag-tag Marines went up against that warm front from the Mediterranean . . .
Under the Biden Junta, what Angelo Codevilla called an oligarchy, General Mark Milley lectures the troops on “gender identity.” As veterans of D-Day and the battle of Monte la Difensa will recall, trans troops and correct use of pronouns turned the tide against the Nazis.
Under the Biden regime, those who monitor election fraud, resist vaccine mandates, and object to the racist indoctrination of their children, are now domestic terrorists. The higher you go, the more confusion prevails.
“Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks,” proclaimed Biden in his State of the Union address, “but he’ll never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people.” By all indications, Joe Biden has not been studying for his cognitive test.
As Mark Bowden noted in 2010, the “salesman” Joe Biden is “not an intellectual” and not well-read. For most politicians, and certainly the Washington press corps, the only Hayek they recognize is Salma.
The Road to Serfdom, The God That Failed, Animal Farm, and 1984 say the same thing in different ways. Freedom good, totalitarianism bad. Let Friedrich Hayek have the last word:
“If democracies abandon the idea of freedom and happiness of the individual, they admit their civilization is not worth preserving.” Therefore, “we must retain the belief in the traditional values for which we have stood in the past and must have the moral courage stoutly to defend the ideals which our enemies attack.”
This article was also published in American Greatness