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Monday, March 18, 2013


On the Verge of Totalitarianism?

Are We on the Verge of Totalitarianism?

On pages 70-71 of Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 1, FA Hayek states:

"What concerns us here however, not so much the past as the present. In spite of the collapse of totalitarian regimes in the western world, their basic ideas have in the theoretical sphere continued to gain ground, so much so that to transform completely the legal system into a totalitarian one all that is needed now is to allow the ideas already reigning in the abstract sphere to be translated into practice."

If you believe FA Hayek, this is a bone-chilling prophecy. He is saying that although our law books have not yet caught up with the contemporary mindset, they are not far behind: all it would take is to allow the "reigning ideas of the abstract sphere" to become physically represented in our law books.

In chapter three of Rules and Order, Hayek describes the process by which lawyers establish law over time.  He argued that quite often, these lawyers are merely pawns serving their masters: "Tools, not of principles of justice, but of an apparatus in which the individual is made to serve the ends of his rulers."

He then goes on to describe how this process of change in legislation leads to the movement away from private lawyers, towards public lawyers, "whose main concern is the public law". Hayek claims that this movement has been occurring in error, based on the myth that spontaneous orders are something that can be easily adjusted or 'fixed' via government policies.

Hayek says that most contemporary legal philosophy is "full of outdated cliches about the alleged self-destructive tendency of competition, or the need for 'planning' created by the increased complexity of the modern world, cliches deriving from the high tide of enthusiasm for 'planning' of thirty or forty years ago, when it was widely accepted and its totalitarian implications not yet clearly understood."

Because the lawyers creating new legislation are not serving justice, but rather their masters, the law is beginning to resemble, more and more, the mind of the ruler. Hayek reminds us that it was not the evil men of the world who have brought the most pain and suffering, but that it is the great ideologues whose ideas have  infiltrated and permeated the abstract sphere who have truly been the most destructive, despite having "good" intentions.

On page 62, Hayek reminds us that we have strayed far from the original ideals embodied in classical liberalism, yet much of the population is still under the assumption that these are the ideals that still govern our nation. Because of this underlying misconception, Hayek fears we are dangerously close to falling back into a totalitarian state.

It is of utmost importance that each individual understands the ideal Hayek is promoting in this reading. If we do not understand the nature of spontaneous orders and the purposes they serve, we will easily be convinced that the solution to our woes is not more freedom, but is actually less!

If we do not take the initiative to investigate the "development of social institutions", we will, like the examples in Hayek's book, be likely to believe that when problems are 'fixed' within a spontaneous order, it is due to some kind of government intervention or regulation, not the process by which all problems are fixed within a spontaneous order - through the discovery process of competition.

It is time we stop "waiting for superman" or some other hero to solve our problems. This is the exact mentality that leads to a totalitarian state. A bunch of crying babies screaming "please help us" form exactly the perfect conditions for a totalitarian takeover.

"The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. ...This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector." - Plato

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