7/29/2019

Liberalism Misunderstood

"The intimate relationship between the evolution of liberalism in political, social and economic affairs is critical to understanding various important basic facts in human history. This is a theme highlighted in Lionel Robbins's The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy (1952). But this understanding of liberalism came under severe criticism throughout the late 19th and throughout the 20th century. Many intellectuals argued that due the inherent tendencies of unhampered capitalism toward monopolistic power, microeconomic inefficiency and macroeconomic instability, liberal political values and freedoms would be threatened by the powerful and indifferent to human suffering. They had to be socialists in their economics, they insisted to remain liberals in their politics.

It is against this line of argument that F. A. Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom, and why his dedication in that book to socialists of all parties is not ironic in the least. He was trying to persuade his fellow liberals that this move would introduce a new era of oppression and dogma. His message is a warning of the possibility of a tragic ending -- liberals who fought so hard to overcome the oppression and dogma of an earlier age only to usher in a new era of oppression and dogma. But tragedy could be avoided, if -- and only if -- the warning was heeded and the socialist path was rejected."