Sunday, August 25, 2013

Meditations on The Road to Serfdom - The Great Utopia

The Great Utopia

Origins of socialism...

It is rarely remembered now that socialism in its beginnings was frankly authoritarian. The French writers who laid the basis for modern socialism had no doubt that their ideas could only be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial government. -Hayek

This dictatorial bent can be seen in these early tracts on Socialism:

French utopian Morelly, 1755 Code of Nature

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), the founder of French socialism
Louis Blanc in 1839, in "The organization of work"

When it comes to this chapter from Hayeks's work two words come to mind Doublethink and Newspeak:


Doublethink comes from George Orwell's book 1984 and means:

... the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.


Newspeak also comes to mind:

The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can't be said, then it can't be thought. One question raised by this iswhether we are defined by our language, or whether we actively define it. For instance, can we communicate the need for freedom, or organize an uprising, if we don't have the words for either? This is related to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, and Ludwig Wittgenstein's proposition, "The limits of my language mean the limits to my world."

Here is an interesting take on this topic from the World Socialist Web Site:

World Socialist Web Site - A comment: Revisiting George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2010

Language Control = Thought Control

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis - basically says that language controls our thoughts.

Here is a summary of the hypothesis:

Linguistic Diversity
Languages, especially members of quite different language families, differ in important ways from one another.

Linguistic Influence on Thought:
The structure and lexicon of one's language influences how one perceives and conceptualizes the world, and they do so in a systematic way.

Source: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

New Freedom/Corrupt Freedom

Case in point, the example Hayek gives in this chapter of the socialist corruption of the word freedom:

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.
-Alexis de Tocqueville 

Thinking about Freedom: Two Definitions in F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom

How do people who want to control as many aspects of your life as possible through government control of resources and regulation of activity convince you that what they are really offering is freedom? Well, apparently they offered something called a “new freedom.” They framed this new kind of freedom as liberty from want and worry about one’s daily bread, without which, they said, political freedom is worth nothing. Hayek says, “Freedom in this sense, of course, is merely another name for power and wealth.”

This definition of freedom is quite different from what older thinkers, the French and American Revolutionaries, and most ordinary people mean when they use the word. “To the great apostles of political freedom the word had meant freedom from coercion, freedom from arbitrary power of other men, release from the ties which left the individual no choice but obedience to orders of a superior to whom he was attached,” says Hayek.

Cognitive Dissonance

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