For those of you who have studied F. A. Hayek for years, my recent epiphany (see earlier post) must seem almost laughable. Like a music historian who, after forty years in the field, suddenly discovers Tchaikovsky.
Though written almost seventy years ago, The Road to Serfdom is rich with truth. Hayek focuses on economics and government, but the repercussions of policy spill over into areas far removed from their original narrow intent. He correctly predicts in Chapter 14 how government actions affect so much more than we generally realize.
That in this sphere of individual conduct the effect of collectivism has been almost entirely destructive is both inevitable and undeniable. A movement whose main promise is the relief from responsibility cannot but be antimoral in its effect, however lofty the ideals to which it owes its birth….that both the willingness to bear responsibility and the consciousness that it is our own individual duty to know how to choose have been perceptibly impaired …since we have fixed our eyes on an entirely different system in which the state will set everything right….
It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now—independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors—are essentially those on which the working of an individualist society rest. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed them it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand of obedience and the compulsion of the individual to do what is collectively decided to be good.
There are always consequences for our choices. There always will be, no matter what the government legislates. But by encouraging a culture in which it appears that a program, tax, subsidy or judge can fix most problems, we encourage people to forget about the importance of individual accountability. We do this to the immediate detriment of our families and neighborhoods, and perhaps soon to the ruin of our nation.
We must turn away from the siren song of government intervention and back to individual accountability and family responsibility.