The Road to Serfdom
By F. A. Hayek
First published in 1944
Chapter 3: INDIVIDUALISM and COLLECTIVISM
"The socialists believe in two things which are absolutely different and perhaps even contradictory: freedom and organization." —Elie Halévy’
"...the concept of socialism itself .... may mean, and is often used to describe, merely the ideals of social justice, greater equality, and security which are the ultimate aims of socialism. But it means also the particular method by which most socialists hope to attain these ends and which many competent people regard as the only methods by which they can be fully and quickly attained. In this sense socialism means the abolition of private enterprise, of private ownership of the means of production, and the creation of a system of “planned economy” in which the entrepreneur working for profit is replaced by a central planning body.
"There are many people who call themselves socialists, although they care only about the first, who fervently believe in those ultimate aims of socialism but neither care nor understand how they can be achieved, and who are merely certain that they must be achieved, whatever the cost.... Many people, on the other hand, who value the ultimate ends of socialism no less than the socialists refuse to support socialism because of the dangers to other values they see in the methods proposed by the socialists. The dispute about socialism has thus become largely a dispute about means and not about ends." [p.83]
Chapter 10: WHY THE WORST GET ON TOP
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton
"We must now examine a belief from which many who regard the advent of totalitarianism as inevitable derive consolation, and which seriously weakens the resistance of many others who would oppose it with all their might if they fully apprehended its nature. It is the belief that the most repellent features of the totalitarian regimes are due to the historical accident that they were established by groups of blackguards and thugs. Surely, it is argued, if in Germany the creation of a totalitarian regime brought the ... Himmlers and Heydrichs to power, this may prove the viciousness of the German character but not that the rise of such people is the necessary consequence of a totalitarian system. Why should it not be possible that the same sort of system, if it be necessary to achieve important ends, be run by decent people for the good of the community as a whole?" [p157]
"The 'moral basis of collectivism' has, of course, been much debated in the past; but what concerns us here is not its moral basis but its moral results. The usual discussions of the ethical aspects of collectivism refer to the question whether collectivism is demanded by existing moral convictions; or what moral convictions would be required if collectivism is to produce the hoped-for results. Our question, however, is what moral views will be produced by a collectivist organization of society, or what views are likely to rule it." [p158]
"...socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialist disapprove... The old socialist parties were inhibited by their democratic ideals; they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen tasks... [O]thers had already learned the lesson that in a planned society the question can no longer be on what do a majority of the people agree but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to make unified direction of all affairs possible; or, if no such group large enough to enforce its views exists, how it can be created." [pps.159-160]
"By our standards the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.... If a numerous group is needed, strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated... tastes... If, however, a potential dictator had to rely entirely on those whose uncomplicated and primitive instincts happen to be very similar, ...he will have to increase their numbers by converting more to the same simple creed. ...he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party." [p.160]
"It seems to be almost a law of human nature that 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." [pps.160-161]
"The contrast between the 'we' and the 'they'... seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses. ...The enemy, whether he be internal... or external, seems to be an indispensable requisite in the armory of a totalitarian leader." [p.161]
"We have seen before how the separation of economic and political aims is an essential guaranty of individual freedom and how it is consequently attacked by all collectivists." [p.166]
"What is called economic power, while it can be an instrument of coercion, is, in the hands of private individuals, never exclusive or complete power, never power over the whole life of a person. But centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery.
"From the two central features of every collectivist system... grows a definite system of morals, which on some points coincides and on others violently contrasts with ours—but differs from it in one point which makes it doubtful whether we can call it morals: that it does not leave the individual conscience free to apply its own rules and does not even know any general rules which the individual is required or allowed to observe in all circumstances....
"The difference of principle is very much the same as that which we have already considered in connection with the Rule of Law. Like formal law, the rules of individualist ethics, however unprecise they may be in many respects, are general and absolute.... To cheat or steal, to torture or betray a confidence, is held to be bad, irrespective of whether or not in the particular instance any harm follows from it.... Though we may sometimes be forced to choose between different evils, they remain evils." [p.166]
"The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves 'the good of the whole,' because the 'good of the whole' is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. ...[C]ollectivist ethics... knows no other limit than that set by expediency—the suitability of the particular act for the end in view." [pps.166-167]
"The absence of absolute formal rules in collectivist ethics does not, of course, mean that there are not some useful habits of the individuals which a collectivist community will encourage and others which it will discourage. ... To be a useful member of a collectivist society requires very definite qualities which must be strengthened by constant practice." [p.166]
"Where there is one common all-overriding end, there is no room for any general morals or rules.... But where a few specific ends dominate the whole of society, it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty; that acts that revolt our feelings, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old and sick, should be treated as mere matter of expediency; that the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousand should become an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims.... There is always in the eyes of the collectivist a greater goal which these acts serve and which to him justifies them because the pursuit of the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual." [p.168-169]
"To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own. They must, above all, be unreservedly committed to the person of the leader ... they should be completely unprincipled.... They must have no ideals of their own which they want to realize; no ideas about right or wrong which might interfere with the intentions of the leader. ... The only tastes which are satisfied are the taste for power as such and the pleasure of being obeyed and of being part of a well-functioning and immensely powerful machine to which everything else must give way." [p.167]
"The positions in a totalitarian society in which it is necessary to practice cruelty and intimidation, deliberate deception and spying, are numerous. Neither the Gestapo nor the administration of a concentration camp... are suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet it is through positions like these that the road to the highest positions in the totalitarian state leads." [p.170]
This more recent version of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek (first published in 1944 by the University of Chicago Press) is still available through its original publisher as well as through the Internet and in bookstores across America.
1. Elie Halévy,’ The Era of Tyrannies: Essay on Socialism and War (New York, University Press, 1966).
2. Lord Acton, Historical Essays and Studies, 1919, p. 504.
3. Encylopaedia Britannica, Vol. 16, (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), 93-94. See "The Enemy of the People"
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See also Chapter 11 of The Road to Serfdom: The End of Truth
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