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Oppose Fascism of the Right and the Left – Article by Ron Paul

Oppose Fascism of the Right and the Left – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 26, 2017

Following the recent clashes between the alt-right and the group antifa, some libertarians have debated which group they should support. The answer is simple: neither. The alt-right and its leftist opponents are two sides of the same authoritarian coin.

The alt-right elevates racial identity over individual identity. The obsession with race leads them to support massive government interference in the economy in order to benefit members of the favored race. They also favor massive welfare and entitlement spending, as long as it functions as a racial spoils system. Some prominent alt-right leaders even support abortion as a way of limiting the minority population. No one who sincerely supports individual liberty, property rights, or the right to life can have any sympathy for this type of racial collectivism.

Antifa, like all Marxists, elevates class identity over individual identity. Antifa supporters believe government must run the economy because otherwise workers will be exploited by greedy capitalists. This faith in central planning ignores economic reality, as well as the reality that in a free market employers and workers voluntarily work together for their mutual benefit. It is only when the central government intervenes in the economy that crony capitalists have the opportunity to exploit workers, consumers, and taxpayers. Sadly, many on the left confuse the results of the “mixed economy” with free markets.

Ironically, the failure of the Keynesian model of economic authoritarianism, promoted by establishment economists like Paul Krugman, is responsible for the rise of the alt-right and antifa. Despite a recent (and likely short-lived) upturn in some sectors of the economy, many Americans continue to struggle with unemployment and a Federal Reserve-caused eroding standard of living. History shows that economic hardship causes many to follow demagogues offering easy solutions and convenient scapegoats.

Left-wing demagogues scapegoat businesses and the “one percent,” ignoring the distinction between those who made their fortunes serving consumers and those who enriched themselves by manipulating the political process. Right-wing demagogues scapegoat immigrants and minorities, ignoring how these groups suffer under the current system and how they are disproportionally impacted by policies like the war on drugs and police militarization.

As the Keynesian-Krugman empire of big government and fiat currency collapses, more people will be attracted to authoritarianism, leading to an increase in violence. The only way to ensure the current system is not replaced with something even worse is for those of us who know the truth to work harder to spread the ideas of liberty.

While we should be willing to form coalitions with individuals of good will across the political spectrum, we must never align with anyone promoting violence as a solution to social and economic problems. We must also oppose any attempts to use the violence committed by extremists as a justification for expanding the police state or infringing on free speech. Laws against hate speech set a dangerous precedent for censorship of speech unpopular with the ruling elite and the deep state.

Libertarians have several advantages in the ideological battle over what we will replace the Keynesian welfare model with. First, we do not need to resort to scapegoating and demagoguing, as we have the truth about the welfare-warfare state and the Federal Reserve on our side. We also offer a realistic way to restore prosperity. But our greatest advantage is that, while authoritarianism divides people by race, class, religion, or other differences, the cause of liberty unites all who seek peace and prosperity.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.
This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Thomas Carlyle: The Founding Father of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Thomas Carlyle: The Founding Father of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker

Thomas Carlyle fits the bill in every respect


Have you heard of the “great man” theory of history?

The meaning is obvious from the words. The idea is that history moves in epochal shifts under the leadership of visionary, bold, often ruthless men who marshal the energy of masses of people to push events in radical new directions. Nothing is the same after them.

In their absence, nothing happens that is notable enough to qualify as history: no heroes, no god-like figures who qualify as “great.” In this view, we need such men.  If they do not exist, we create them. They give us purpose. They define the meaning of life. They drive history forward.

Great men, in this view, do not actually have to be fabulous people in their private lives. They need not exercise personal virtue. They need not even be moral. They only need to be perceived as such by the masses, and play this role in the trajectory of history.

Such a view of history shaped much of historiography as it was penned in the late 19th century and early 20th century, until the revisionists of the last several decades saw the error and turned instead to celebrate private life and the achievements of common folk instead. Today the “great man” theory history is dead as regards academic history, and rightly so.

Carlyle the Proto-Fascist

Thomas_CarlyleThe originator of the great man theory of history is British philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), one of the most revered thinkers of his day. He also coined the expression “dismal science” to describe the economics of his time. The economists of the day, against whom he constantly inveighed, were almost universally champions of the free market, free trade, and human rights.

His seminal work on “great men” is On Heroes,  Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1840). This book was written to distill his entire worldview.

Considering Carlyle’s immense place in the history of 19th century intellectual life, this is a surprisingly nutty book. It can clearly be seen as paving the way for the monster dictators of the 20th century. Reading his description of “great men” literally, there is no sense in which Mao, Stalin, and Hitler — or any savage dictator from any country you can name — would not qualify.

Indeed, a good case can be made that Carlyle was the forefather of fascism. He made his appearance in the midst of the age of laissez faire, a time when the UK and the US had already demonstrated the merit of allowing society to take its own course, undirected from the top down. In these times, kings and despots were exercising ever less control and markets ever more. Slavery was on its way out. Women obtained rights equal to men. Class mobility was becoming the norm, as were long lives, universal opportunity, and material progress.

Carlyle would have none of it. He longed for a different age. His literary output was devoted to decrying the rise of equality as a norm and calling for the restoration of a ruling class that would exercise firm and uncontested power for its own sake. In his view, some were meant to rule and others to follow. Society must be organized hierarchically lest his ideal of greatness would never again be realized. He set himself up as the prophet of despotism and the opponent of everything that was then called liberal.

Right Authoritarianism of the 19th Century

Carlyle was not a socialist in an ideological sense. He cared nothing for the common ownership of the means of production. Creating an ideologically driven social ideal did not interest him at all. His writings appeared and circulated alongside those of Karl Marx and his contemporaries, but he was not drawn to them.

Rather than an early “leftist,” he was a consistent proponent of power and a raving opponent of classical liberalism, particularly of the legacies of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. If you have the slightest leanings toward liberty, or affections for the impersonal forces of markets, his writings come across as ludicrous. His interest was in power as the central organizing principle of society.

Here is his description of the “great men” of the past:

“They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history….

One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness;—in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. … Could we see them well, we should get some glimpses into the very marrow of the world’s history. How happy, could I but, in any measure, in such times as these, make manifest to you the meanings of Heroism; the divine relation (for I may well call it such) which in all times unites a Great Man to other men…

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism — heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples.And so on it goes for hundreds of pages that celebrate “great” events such as the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution (one of the worst holocausts then experienced). Wars, revolutions, upheavals, invasions, and mass collective action, in his view, were the essence of life itself. The merchantcraft of the industrial revolution, the devolution of power, the small lives of the bourgeoisie all struck him as noneventful and essentially irrelevant. These marginal improvements in the social sphere were made by the “silent people” who don’t make headlines and therefore don’t matter much; they are essential at some level but inconsequential in the sweep of things.

To Carlyle, nothing was sillier than Adam Smith’s pin factory: all those regular people intricately organized by impersonal forces to make something practical to improve people’s lives. Why should society’s productive capacity be devoted to making pins instead of making war? Where is the romance in that?

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism — heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples. And what should replace liberalism? What ideology? It didn’t matter, so long as it embodied Carlyle’s definition of “greatness.”

No Greatness Like the Nation-State

Of course there is no greatness to compare with that of the head of the nation-state.

“The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do.”

Why the nation-state? Because within the nation-state, all that is otherwise considered immoral, illegal, unseemly, and ghastly, can become, as blessed by the law, part of policy, civic virtue, and the forward motion of history. The leader of the nation-state baptizes rampant immorality with the holy water of consensus. And thus does Napoleon come in for high praise from Carlyle, in addition to the tribal chieftains of Nordic mythology. The point is not what the “great man” does with his power so much as that he exercises it decisively, authoritatively, ruthlessly.

The exercise of such power necessarily requires the primacy of the nation-state, and hence the protectionist and nativist impulses of the fascist mindset.

Consider the times in which Carlyle wrote. Power was on the wane, and humankind was in the process of discovering something absolutely remarkable: namely, the less society is controlled from the top, the more the people thrive in their private endeavors. Society needs no management but rather contains within itself the capacity for self organization, not through the exercise of the human will as such, but by having the right institutions in place. Such was the idea of liberalism.

Liberalism was always counterintuitive. The less society is ordered, the more order emerges from the ground up. The freer people are permitted to be, the happier the people become and the more meaning they find in the course of life itself. The less power that is given to the ruling class, the more wealth is created and dispersed among everyone. The less a nation is directed by conscious design, the more it can provide a model of genuine greatness.

Such teachings emerged from the liberal revolution of the previous two centuries. But some people (mostly academics and would-be rulers) weren’t having it. On the one hand, the socialists would not tolerate what they perceived to be the seeming inequality of the emergent commercial society. On the other hand, the advocates of old-fashioned ruling-class control, such as Carlyle and his proto-fascist contemporaries, longed for a restoration of pre-modern despotism, and devoted their writings to extolling a time before the ideal of universal freedom appeared in the world.

The Dismal Science

One of the noblest achievements of the liberal revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries — in addition to the idea of free trade — was the movement against slavery and its eventual abolition. It should not surprise anyone that Carlyle was a leading opponent of the abolitionist movement and a thoroughgoing racist. He extolled the rule of one race over another, and resented especially the economists for being champions of universal rights and therefore opponents of slavery.

As David Levy has demonstrated, the claim that economics was a “dismal science” was first stated in an essay by Carlyle in 1848, an essay in which non-whites were claimed to be non-human and worthy of killing. Blacks were, to his mind, “two-legged cattle,” worthy of servitude for all times.

Carlyle’s objection to economics as a science was very simple: it opposed slavery. Economics imagined that society could consist of people of equal freedoms, a society without masters and slaves. Supply and demand, not dictators, would rule. To him, this was a dismal prospect, a world without “greatness.”

The economists were the leading champions of human liberation from such “greatness.” They understood, through the study of market forces and the close examination of the on-the-ground reality of factories and production structures, that wealth was made by the small actions of men and women acting in their own self interest. Therefore, concluded the economists, people should be free of despotism. They should be free to accumulate wealth. They should pursue their own interests in their own way. They should be let alone.

Carlyle found the whole capitalist worldview disgusting. His loathing foreshadowed the fascism of the 20th century: particularly its opposition to liberal capitalism, universal rights, and progress.

Fascism’s Prophet

Once you get a sense of what capitalism meant to humanity – universal liberation and the turning of social resources toward the service of the common person – it is not at all surprising to find reactionary intellectuals opposing it tooth and nail. There were generally two schools of thought that stood in opposition to what it meant to the world: the socialists and the champions of raw power that later came to be known as fascists. In today’s parlance, here is the left and the right, both standing in opposition to simple freedom.

Carlyle came along at just the right time to represent that reactionary brand of power for its own sake. His opposition to emancipation and writings on race would emerge only a few decades later into a complete ideology of eugenics that would later come to heavily inform 20th-century fascist experiments. There is a direct line, traversing only a few decades, between Carlyle’s vehement anti-capitalism and the ghettos and gas chambers of the German total state.

Do today’s neo-fascists understand and appreciate their 19th century progenitor? Not likely. The continuum from Carlyle to Mussolini to Franco to Donald Trump is lost on people who do not see beyond the latest political crisis. Not one in ten thousand activists among the European and American “alt-right” who are rallying around would-be strong men who seek power today have a clue about their intellectual heritage.

Hitler turned to Goebbels, his trusted assistant, and asked for a final reading. It was Carlyle.And it should not be necessary that they do. After all, we have a more recent history of the rise of fascism in the 20th-century from which to learn (and it is to their everlasting disgrace that they have refused to learn).

But no one should underestimate the persistence of an idea and its capacity to travel time, leading to results that no one intended directly but are still baked into the fabric of the ideological structure. If you celebrate power for its own sake, herald immorality as a civic ideal, and believe that history rightly consists of nothing more than the brutality of great men with power, you end up with unconscionable results that may not have been overtly intended but which were nonetheless given license by the absence of conscience opposition.

As time went on, left and right mutated, merged, diverged, and established a revolving door between the camps, disagreeing on the ends they sought but agreeing on the essentials. They would have opposed 19th-century liberalism and its conviction that society should be left alone. Whether they were called socialist or fascists, the theme was the same. Society must be planned from the top down. A great man — brilliant, powerful, with massive resources at his disposal — must lead. At some point in the middle of the 20th century, it became difficult to tell the difference but for their cultural style and owned constituencies. Even so, left and right maintained distinctive forms. If Marx was the founding father of the socialist left, Carlyle was his foil on the fascist right.

Hitler and Carlyle

In his waning days, defeated and surrounded only by loyalists in his bunker, Hitler sought consolation from the literature he admired the most. According to many biographers, the following scene took place. Hitler turned to Goebbels, his trusted assistant, and asked for a final reading. The words he chose to hear before his death were from Thomas Carlyle’s biography of Frederick the Great. Thus did Carlyle himself provide a fitting epitaph to one of the “great” men he so celebrated during his life: alone, disgraced, and dead.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Waking Up to the Reality of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Waking Up to the Reality of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker

The great extant threat to liberty is nativist authoritarianism

Donald Trump is on a roll, breaking new ground in uses for [centralized] power.

Closing the internet? Sure. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people… We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some ways.”

Registering Muslims? Lots of people thought he misspoke. But he later clarified: “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems.”

Why not just bar all Muslims at the border? Indeed, and to the massive cheers of his supporters, Trump has called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Internment camps? Trump cites the FDR precedent: Italians, Germans, and Japanese “couldn’t go five miles from their homes. They weren’t allowed to use radios, flashlights. I mean, you know, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he’s one of the most highly respected presidents.”

Rounding up millions of people? He’ll create a “deportation force” to hunt down and remove 11 million illegal immigrants.

Killing wives and children? That too. “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.”

Political Vocabulary

This litany of ideas has finally prompted mainstream recognition of the incredibly obvious: If Donald Trump has an ideology, it is best described as fascism.

Even Republican commentators, worried that he might be unstoppable, are saying it now. Military historian and Marco Rubio adviser Max Boot tweeted that “Trump is a fascist. And that’s not a term I use loosely or often. But he’s earned it.” Bush adviser John Noonan said the same.

The mainstream press is more overt. CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Trump point blank if he is a fascist. The Atlantic writes: “It’s hard to remember a time when a supposedly mainstream candidate had no interest in differentiating ideas he’s endorsed from those of the Nazis.”

There is a feeling of shock in the air, but anyone paying attention should have seen this last summer. Why did it take so long for the consciousness to dawn?

The word fascism has been used too often in political discourse, and almost always imprecisely. It’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf. You warn about wolves so much that no one takes you seriously when a real one actually shows up.

Lefties since the late 1930s have tended to call non-leftists fascists — which has led to a discrediting of the word itself. As time went on, the word became nothing but a vacuous political insult. It’s what people say about someone with whom they disagree. It doesn’t mean much more than that.

Then in the 1990s came Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 100 percent.” This law provided a convenient way to dismiss all talk of fascism as Internet babblings deployed in the midst of flame wars.

Godwin’s Law made worse the perception that followed the end of World War II: that fascism was a temporary weird thing that afflicted a few countries but had been vanquished from the earth thanks to the Allied war victory. It would no longer be a real problem but rather a swear word with no real substance.

Fascism Is Real

Without the term fascism as an authentic descriptor, we have a problem. We have no accurate way to identify what is in fact the most politically successful movement of the 20th century. It is a movement that still exists today, because the conditions that gave rise to it are unchanged.

The whole burden of one of the most famous pro-freedom books of the century — Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — was to warn that fascism was a more immediate and pressing danger to the developed world than Russian-style socialism. And this is for a reason: Hayek said that “brown” fascism did not represent a polar opposite of “red” socialism. In the interwar period, it was common to see both intellectuals and politicians move fluidly from one to the other.

“The rise of Fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period,” wrote Hayek, “but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.”

In Hayek’s reading, the dynamic works like this. The socialists build the state machinery, but their plans fail. A crisis arrives. The population seeks answers. Politicians claiming to be anti-socialist step up with new authoritarian plans that purport to reverse the problem. Their populist appeal taps into the lowest political instincts (nativism, racism, religious bigotry, and so on) and promises a new order of things under better, more efficient rule.

Last July, I heard Trump speak, and his talk displayed all the features of fascist rhetoric. He began with trade protectionism and held up autarky as an ideal. He moved to immigration, leading the crowd to believe that all their economic and security troubles were due to dangerous foreign elements among us. Then came the racial dog whistles: Trump demanded of a Hispanic questioner whether he was a plant sent by the government of Mexico.

There was more. He railed against the establishment that is incompetent and lacking in energy. He bragged about his lack of interest-group ties — which is another way of saying that only he can become the purest sort of dictator, with no quid pro quos to tie him down. (My article on this topic is here.)

Trump is clearly not pushing himself as a traditional American president, heading an executive branch and working with Congress and the judicial branch. He imagines himself as running to head a personal state: his will would be the one will for the country. He has no real plans beyond putting himself in charge — not only of the government but, he imagines, the entire country. It’s a difference of substance that is very serious.

The rest of the campaign has been easy to predict. He refashioned himself as pro-family, anti-PC, and even pro-religion. These traits come with the package — both a reaction to the far left and a fulfillment of its centralist ambitions.

The key to understanding fascism is this: It preserves the despotic ambitions of socialism while removing its most politically unpopular elements. In an atmosphere of fear and loathing, it assures the population that it can keep its property, religion, and faith — provided all these elements are channeled into a grand national project under a charismatic leader of high competence.

Douthat’s Analysis

As the realization has spread that Trump is the real deal, so has the quality of reflection on its implication. Most impressive so far has been Ross Douthat’s article in the New York Times. As he explains, Trump displays as least seven features of Umberto Eco’s list of fascist traits:

A cult of action, a celebration of aggressive masculinity, an intolerance of criticism, a fear of difference and outsiders, a pitch to the frustrations of the lower middle class, an intense nationalism and resentment at national humiliation, and a “popular elitism” that promises every citizen that they’re part of “the best people of the world.”

In this, Trump is different from other American politicians who have been called fascist, writes Douthat. George Wallace was a local-rights guy and hated Washington, whereas Trump loves power and thinks only in terms of centralization. Pat Buchanan’s extreme nativism was always tempered by his attachment to Catholic moral teaching that puts brakes on power ambitions.

Ross Perot was called a fascist, but actually he was a government reformer who wanted to bring business standards to government finance, which is very different from wanting to manage the entire country. And, for all his nonsense about jobs going to Mexico, Perot generally avoided racialist dog whistles.

Why Now and Not Before?

Why has genuine fascism been kept at bay in America? Why has the American right never taken the final step that might have plunged it into authoritarian, nativist aspirations?

Here Douthat is especially insightful:

Part of the explanation has to be that the American conservative tradition has always included important elements — a libertarian skepticism of state power, a stress on localism and states’ rights, a religious and particularly Protestant emphasis on the conscience of an individual over the power of the collective — that inoculated our politics against fascism’s appeal.

Douthat singles out libertarianism as an ideological brake on fascist longings. This is precisely right. Libertarianism grows out of the liberal tradition, which is about far more than merely hating the ruling-class establishment. Classical liberalism has universalist longings, embodied in its defenses of free trade, free speech, free migration, and freedom of religion. The central-planning feature of fascistic ideology is absolutely ruled out by libertarian love for spontaneous social and economic forces at work in society.

As for “energy” emanating from the executive branch, the liberal tradition can’t be clearer. No amount of intelligence, resources, or determined will from the top down can make [central planning] work. The problem is the apparatus itself, not the personalities and values of the rulers who happen to be in charge.

(I’m leaving aside the deep and bizarre irony that many self-professed libertarians have fallen for Trump, a fact which should be deeply embarrassing to anyone and everyone who has affection for human liberty. And good for Ron Paul for denouncing Trump’s authoritarianism in no uncertain terms.)

Can He Win?

Douthat seriously doubts that Trump can finally win over Republicans, due to “his lack of any real religious faith, his un-libertarian style and record, his clear disdain for the ideas that motivate many of the most engaged Republicans.”

I’m not so sure. The economic conditions that led to a rise of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Franco in Spain are nowhere close to being replicated here. Even so, income growth has stagnated, middle-class social ambitions are frustrated, and many aspects of [federal] government services are failing […] Add fear of terrorism to the mix, and the conditions, at least for some, are nearly right. What Trumpism represents is an attempt to address these problems through more of the same means that have failed in the past.

It’s time to dust off that copy of The Road to Serfdom and realize that the biggest threats to liberty come from unexpected places. While the rank and file are worrying themselves about the influence of progressive professors and group identity politics, they need to open their eyes to the possibility that the gravest threat to American rights and liberties exists within their own ranks.

If you want to understand more about fascism and its history, see this chapter from John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

The War on Cars Is a War on Workers and the Poor – Article by Gary M. Galles

The War on Cars Is a War on Workers and the Poor – Article by Gary M. Galles

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary M. Galles
November 6, 2015

A just-released poll of Los Angeles residents found that 55 percent of respondents indicated their greatest concern was “traffic and congestion,” far ahead of “personal safety” — the next highest area of concern — at 35 percent. So if their city government was working in their best interests, it would be doing something about automobile congestion.

It is. Unfortunately, it will make things worse.

Los Angeles’s recently adopted Mobility Plan 2035 would replace auto lanes in America’s congestion capital with bus and protected bike lanes, as well as pedestrian enhancements, despite heightening congestion for the vast majority who will continue to drive. Even the City’s Environmental Impact Report admitted “unavoidable significant adverse impacts” on congestion, doubling the number of heavily congested (graded F) intersections to 36 percent during evening rush hours.

Driving Saves Time and Offers More Opportunity

Such an effort to ration driving by worsening gridlock purgatory begs asking a central, but largely ignored, question. Why do planners’ attempts to force residents into walking, cycling, and mass transit — supposedly improving their quality of life — attract so few away from driving?

The reason it takes a coercive crowbar to get most people out of their cars is that automobile users have concluded cars are vastly superior to the alternatives.

Why is automobile use so desirable:

  • Automobiles have far greater and more flexible passenger — and cargo-carrying capacities.
  • They allow direct, point-to-point service.
  • They allow self-scheduling rather than requiring advance planning.
  • They save time.
  • They have far better multi-stop trip capability (this is why restrictions on auto use punish working mothers most).
  • They offer a safer, more comfortable, more controllable environment, from the seats to the temperature to the music to the company.

Those massive advantages explain why even substantial new restrictions on automobiles or improvements in alternatives leave driving the dominant choice. However, they also reveal that a policy that will punish the vast majority who will continue to drive cannot serve residents effectively.

How Restrictions on Automobiles Punish the Working Poor the Most

The superiority of automobiles doesn’t stop at the obvious, either. They expand workers’ access to jobs, increasing productivity and incomes, improve purchasing choices, lower consumer prices and widen social options. Reducing roads’ car-carrying capacity undermines those major benefits.

Cars offer a decrease in commuting times (if not hamstrung by city-government planning), providing workers access to many more potential employers and job markets. This improves worker-employer matches, with expanded productivity both benefiting employers and raising workers’ incomes.

One study found that a 10-percent improvement in travel time raised worker productivity 3 percent. And increasing from a 3 mph walking speed to 30 mph driving speed is a 900-percent increase. In a similar vein, a Harvard analysis found that for those lacking high-school diplomas, owning a car increased monthly earnings by $1,100.

Cars are also the only means of assembling enough customers to sustain large stores with highly diverse offerings. Similarly, “automobility” dramatically expands the menu of social opportunities that are accessible.

Supporters like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may dismiss the serious adverse effects of the “road diets” they propose (a term whose negative implications were too obvious, getting it benched in favor of the better-sounding “complete streets”). But by demeaning cars as “the old model” and insisting “we have to have neighborhoods that are more self-contained,” the opponents of auto use do nothing to lessen the huge costs or increase the very limited benefits they plan to impose on those they supposedly represent.

Further, the “new model” of curtailing road capacity to force people out of cars is really a recycled old far-inferior model. As urban policy expert Randal O’Toole noted in The Best-Laid Plans:

Anyone who prefers not to drive can find neighborhood … where they can walk to stores that offer a limited selection of high-priced goods, enjoy limited recreation and social opportunities, and take slow public transit vehicles to some but not all regional employment centers, the same as many Americans did in 1920. But the automobile provides people with far more benefits and opportunities than they could ever have without it.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read. Send him mail. See Gary Galles’s article archives.

This article was published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Socialism Is War and War Is Socialism – Both Forms of Central Planning Are Reactionary, Not Progressive – Article by Steven Horwitz

Socialism Is War and War Is Socialism – Both Forms of Central Planning Are Reactionary, Not Progressive – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance Hat
Steven Horwitz
June 10, 2015

“[Economic] planning does not accidentally deteriorate into the militarization of the economy; it is the militarization of the economy.… When the story of the Left is seen in this light, the idea of economic planning begins to appear not only accidentally but inherently reactionary. The theory of planning was, from its inception, modeled after feudal and militaristic organizations. Elements of the Left tried to transform it into a radical program, to fit into a progressive revolutionary vision. But it doesn’t fit. Attempts to implement this theory invariably reveal its true nature. The practice of planning is nothing but the militarization of the economy.”

—Don Lavoie, National Economic Planning: What Is Left?

Libertarians have long confounded our liberal and conservative friends by being both strongly in favor of free markets and strongly opposed to militarism and foreign intervention. In the conventional world of “right” and “left,” this combination makes no sense. Libertarians are often quick to point out the ways in which free trade, both within and across national borders, creates cooperative interdependencies among those who trade, thereby reducing the likelihood of war. The long classical liberal tradition is full of those who saw the connection between free trade and peace.

But there’s another side to the story, which is that socialism and economic planning have a long and close connection with war and militarization.

As Don Lavoie argues at length in his wonderful and underappreciated 1985 book National Economic Planning: What Is Left?, any attempt to substitute economic planning (whether comprehensive and central or piecemeal and decentralized) for markets inevitably ends up militarizing and regimenting the society. Lavoie points out that this outcome was not an accident. Much of the literature defending economic planning worked from a militaristic model. The “success” of economic planning associated with World War I provided early 20th century planners with a specific historical model from which to operate.

This connection should not surprise those who understand the idea of the market as a spontaneous order. As good economists from Adam Smith to F.A. Hayek and beyond have appreciated, markets are the products of human action but not human design. No one can consciously direct an economy. In fact, Hayek in particular argued that this is true not just of the economy, but of society in general: advanced commercial societies are spontaneous orders along many dimensions.

Market economies have no purpose of their own, or as Hayek put it, they are “ends-independent.” Markets are simply means by which people come together to pursue the various ends that each person or group has. You and I don’t have to agree on which goals are more or less important in order to participate in the market.

The same is true of other spontaneous orders. Consider language. We can both use English to construct sentences even if we wish to communicate different, or contradictory, things with the language.

One implication of seeing the economy as a spontaneous order is that it lacks a “collective purpose.” There is no single scale of values that guides us as a whole, and there is no process by which resources, including human resources, can be marshaled toward those collective purposes.

The absence of such a collective purpose or common scale of values is one factor that explains the connection between war and socialism. They share a desire to remake the spontaneous order of society into an organization with a single scale of values, or a specific purpose. In a war, the overarching goal of defeating the enemy obliterates the ends-independence of the market and requires that hierarchical control be exercised in order to direct resources toward the collective purpose of winning the war.

In socialism, the same holds true. To substitute economic planning for the market is to reorganize the economy to have a single set of ends that guides the planners as they allocate resources. Rather than being connected with each other by a shared set of means, as in private property, contracts, and market exchange, planning connects people by a shared set of ends. Inevitably, this will lead to hierarchy and militarization, because those ends require trying to force people to behave in ways that contribute to the ends’ realization. And as Hayek noted in The Road to Serfdom, it will also lead to government using propaganda to convince the public to share a set of values associated with some ends. We see this tactic in both war and socialism.

As Hayek also pointed out, this is an atavistic desire. It is a way for us to try to recapture the world of our evolutionary past, where we existed in small, homogeneous groups in which hierarchical organization with a common purpose was possible. Deep in our moral instincts is a desire to have the solidarity of a common purpose and to organize resources in a way that enables us to achieve it.

Socialism and war appeal to so many because they tap into an evolved desire to be part of a social order that looks like an extended family: the clan or tribe. Soldiers are not called “bands of brothers” and socialists don’t speak of “a brotherhood of man” by accident. Both groups use the same metaphor because it works. We are susceptible to it because most of our history as human beings was in bands of kin that were largely organized in this way.

Our desire for solidarity is also why calls for central planning on a smaller scale have often tried to claim their cause as the moral equivalent of war. This is true on both the left and right. We have had the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror, among others. And we are “fighting,” “combating,” and otherwise at war with our supposedly changing climate — not to mention those thought to be responsible for that change. The war metaphor is the siren song of those who would substitute hierarchy and militarism for decentralized power and peaceful interaction.

Both socialism and war are reactionary, not progressive. They are longings for an evolutionary past long gone, and one in which humans lived lives that were far worse than those we live today. Truly progressive thinking recognizes the limits of humanity’s ability to consciously construct and control the social world. It is humble in seeing how social norms, rules, and institutions that we did not consciously construct enable us to coordinate the actions of billions of anonymous actors in ways that enable them to create incredible complexity, prosperity, and peace.

The right and left do not realize that they are both making the same error. Libertarians understand that the shared processes of spontaneous orders like language and the market can enable all of us to achieve many of our individual desires without any of us dictating those values for others. By contrast, the right and left share a desire to impose their own sets of values on all of us and thereby fashion the world in their own images.

No wonder they don’t understand us.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective, now in paperback.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Decentralization: Why Dumb Networks Are Better – Article by Andreas Antonopoulos

Decentralization: Why Dumb Networks Are Better – Article by Andreas Antonopoulos

The New Renaissance Hat
Andreas Antonopoulos
March 8, 2015

“Every device employed to bolster individual freedom must have as its chief purpose the impairment of the absoluteness of power.” — Eric Hoffer

In computer and communications networks, decentralization leads to faster innovation, greater openness, and lower cost. Decentralization creates the conditions for competition and diversity in the services the network provides.

But how can you tell if a network is decentralized, and what makes it more likely to be decentralized? Network “intelligence” is the characteristic that differentiates centralized from decentralized networks — but in a way that is surprising and counterintuitive.

Some networks are “smart.” They offer sophisticated services that can be delivered to very simple end-user devices on the “edge” of the network. Other networks are “dumb” — they offer only a very basic service and require that the end-user devices are intelligent. What’s smart about dumb networks is that they push innovation to the edge, giving end-users control over the pace and direction of innovation. Simplicity at the center allows for complexity at the edge, which fosters the vast decentralization of services.

Surprisingly, then, “dumb” networks are the smart choice for innovation and freedom.

The telephone network used to be a smart network supporting dumb devices (telephones). All the intelligence in the telephone network and all the services were contained in the phone company’s switching buildings. The telephone on the consumer’s kitchen table was little more than a speaker and a microphone. Even the most advanced touch-tone telephones were still pretty simple devices, depending entirely on the network services they could “request” through beeping the right tones.

In a smart network like that, there is no room for innovation at the edge. Sure, you can make a phone look like a cheeseburger or a banana, but you can’t change the services it offers. The services depend entirely on the central switches owned by the phone company. Centralized innovation means slow innovation. It also means innovation directed by the goals of a single company. As a result, anything that doesn’t seem to fit the vision of the company that owns the network is rejected or even actively fought.

In fact, until 1968, AT&T restricted the devices allowed on the network to a handful of approved devices. In 1968, in a landmark decision, the FCC ruled in favor of the Carterfone, an acoustic coupler device for connecting two-way radios to telephones, opening the door for any consumer device that didn’t “cause harm to the system.”

That ruling paved the way for the answering machine, the fax machine, and the modem. But even with the ability to connect smarter devices to the edge, it wasn’t until the modem that innovation really accelerated. The modem represented a complete inversion of the architecture: all the intelligence was moved to the edge, and the phone network was used only as an underlying “dumb” network to carry the data.

Did the telecommunications companies welcome this development? Of course not! They fought it for nearly a decade, using regulation, lobbying, and legal threats against the new competition. In some countries, modem calls across international lines were automatically disconnected to prevent competition in the lucrative long-distance market. In the end, the Internet won. Now, almost the entire phone network runs as an app on top of the Internet.

The Internet is a dumb network, which is its defining and most valuable feature. The Internet’s protocol (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol, or TCP/IP) doesn’t offer “services.” It doesn’t make decisions about content. It doesn’t distinguish between photos and text, video and audio. It doesn’t have a list of approved applications. It doesn’t even distinguish between client and server, user and host, or individual versus corporation. Every IP address is an equal peer.

TCP/IP acts as an efficient pipeline, moving data from one point to another. Over time, it has had some minor adjustments to offer some differentiated “quality of service” capabilities, but other than that, it remains, for the most part, a dumb data pipeline. Almost all the intelligence is on the edge — all the services, all the applications are created on the edge-devices. Creating a new application does not involve changing the network. The Web, voice, video, and social media were all created as applications on the edge without any need to modify the Internet protocol.

So the dumb network becomes a platform for independent innovation, without permission, at the edge. The result is an incredible range of innovations, carried out at an even more incredible pace. People interested in even the tiniest of niche applications can create them on the edge. Applications that only have two participants only need two devices to support them, and they can run on the Internet. Contrast that to the telephone network where a new “service,” like caller ID, had to be built and deployed on every company switch, incurring maintenance cost for every subscriber. So only the most popular, profitable, and widely used services got deployed.

The financial services industry is built on top of many highly specialized and service-specific networks. Most of these are layered atop the Internet, but they are architected as closed, centralized, and “smart” networks with limited intelligence on the edge.

Take, for example, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the international wire transfer network. The consortium behind SWIFT has built a closed network of member banks that offers specific services: secure messages, mostly payment orders. Only banks can be members, and the network services are highly centralized.

The SWIFT network is just one of dozens of single-purpose, tightly controlled, and closed networks offered to financial services companies such as banks, brokerage firms, and exchanges. All these networks mediate the services by interposing the service provider between the “users,” and they allow minimal innovation or differentiation at the edge — that is, they are smart networks serving mostly dumb devices.

Bitcoin is the Internet of money. It offers a basic dumb network that connects peers from anywhere in the world. The bitcoin network itself does not define any financial services or applications. It doesn’t require membership registration or identification. It doesn’t control the types of devices or applications that can live on its edge. Bitcoin offers one service: securely time-stamped scripted transactions. Everything else is built on the edge-devices as an application. Bitcoin allows any application to be developed independently, without permission, on the edge of the network. A developer can create a new application using the transactional service as a platform and deploy it on any device. Even niche applications with few users — applications never envisioned by the bitcoin protocol creator — can be built and deployed.

Almost any network architecture can be inverted. You can build a closed network on top of an open network or vice versa, although it is easier to centralize than to decentralize. The modem inverted the phone network, giving us the Internet. The banks have built closed network systems on top of the decentralized Internet. Now bitcoin provides an open network platform for financial services on top of the open and decentralized Internet. The financial services built on top of bitcoin are themselves open because they are not “services” delivered by the network; they are “apps” running on top of the network. This arrangement opens a market for applications, putting the end user in a position of power to choose the right application without restrictions.

What happens when an industry transitions from using one or more “smart” and centralized networks to using a common, decentralized, open, and dumb network? A tsunami of innovation that was pent up for decades is suddenly released. All the applications that could never get permission in the closed network can now be developed and deployed without permission. At first, this change involves reinventing the previously centralized services with new and open decentralized alternatives. We saw that with the Internet, as traditional telecommunications services were reinvented with email, instant messaging, and video calls.

This first wave is also characterized by disintermediation — the removal of entire layers of intermediaries who are no longer necessary. With the Internet, this meant replacing brokers, classified ads publishers, real estate agents, car salespeople, and many others with search engines and online direct markets. In the financial industry, bitcoin will create a similar wave of disintermediation by making clearinghouses, exchanges, and wire transfer services obsolete. The big difference is that some of these disintermediated layers are multibillion dollar industries that are no longer needed.

Beyond the first wave of innovation, which simply replaces existing services, is another wave that begins to build the applications that were impossible with the previous centralized network. The second wave doesn’t just create applications that compare to existing services; it spawns new industries on the basis of applications that were previously too expensive or too difficult to scale. By eliminating friction in payments, bitcoin doesn’t just make better payments; it introduces market mechanisms and price discovery to economic activities that were too small or inefficient under the previous cost structure.

We used to think “smart” networks would deliver the most value, but making the network “dumb” enabled a massive wave of innovation. Intelligence at the edge brings choice, freedom, and experimentation without permission. In networks, “dumb” is better.

Andreas M. Antonopoulos is a technologist and serial entrepreneur who advises companies on the use of technology and decentralized digital currencies such as bitcoin.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

GDP Economics: Fat or Muscle? – Article by David J. Hebert

GDP Economics: Fat or Muscle? – Article by David J. Hebert

The New Renaissance Hat
David J. Hebert
November 1, 2014

Recently, Italy “discovered” it was no longer in a recession. Why? The nation started counting GDP figures differently.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Italian officials are, of course, celebrating. In politics, perceptions are more important than reality. But such celebration is troubling for several reasons, which have less to do with headlines or black markets and more to do with fat.

One of F. A. Hayek’s lasting insights was that aggregate variables mask an economy’s underlying structure. For example, a country’s GDP can be calculated by summing the total amount of consumption, investment, government spending, and net exports in a given year. The higher this number, the better an economy is supposed to be doing. But adding these figures together and looking only at their sum can be wildly misleading.

One way to illustrate why is through the following example: I am currently six foot one and weigh 217 pounds. As it turns out, Adrian Peterson, a running back for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, is the same height and weight. Looking at only these two variables, Peterson and I are identical. Obviously, this isn’t true.

Likewise, cross-country GDP comparisons are difficult to make. If two nations grow at the same rate, for example, but one nation “invests” in useless boondoggles while the other grows sustainable businesses, we wouldn’t want to claim that both countries have equally healthy economies.

But what about comparisons of a country’s year-to-year GDP? Is this valuable information? Well, yes and no.

If we know that more stuff is being produced this year than last year, we can infer that more activity is happening. However, this doesn’t mean that government should subsidize production in order to increase activity. In that case, all they’re accomplishing is increasing the number of things that are being done at the expense of other things that could have been done.

What economists should be looking for are increases in economically productive activity from year to year. For example, digging a hole and then filling it back in does increase the measure of activity, but it’s not adding any value to society. Digging a hole in your backyard and filling it with water is also activity, but it’s productive because you now have a swimming pool, which you value enough to employ people to create.

It’s no mystery that Italy is seeing a higher GDP as a result of its change in measurement and that as a result it’s avoided a recession on paper. That is, it’s counting more activities as “productive” than it was previously. It is wrong to conclude, though, that more production is actually happening in Italy. These activities were happening before; they just weren’t being counted in any official statistics.

There are many problems with using GDP as a measure for an economy’s health. Changing what counts toward GDP only introduces yet another confounding factor. When I step on the scale, I can get some basic idea of how healthy I am. But when I take my shoes off and step on the scale again, I didn’t magically become healthier. I just changed what’s counting toward my weight. It would be wrong for me to conclude that I can skip the gym today as a result of this recorded weight loss. Similarly, citizens of Italy should not be celebrating their increased GDP. They still face the same problems as before and must still address them.

David Hebert is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ferris State University. His interests include public finance and property rights.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

My Tiny Cosmopolitan Apartment – Article by Joseph S. Diedrich

My Tiny Cosmopolitan Apartment – Article by Joseph S. Diedrich

The New Renaissance Hat
Joseph S. Diedrich
October 25, 2014

Global trade made my little flat a place of international treasures.


I live in a studio apartment, so my kitchen is my living room is my bedroom. The other day, I was staring out my sole window when something startled me. (And it wasn’t the subwoofer two floors up.)

It was my coffee. While sipping from my mug, I glanced at the bag of beans. It read, “Origin: Ethiopia.” Next, I read the text on the bottom of my laptop: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” I looked down at my necktie: “Bruno Piatelli. Roma.”

This little exercise became a game. From what other far-off places did my stuff come? I sleep on bed sheets from Egypt. I drink bottles of Shiraz from Australia. I pour Canadian maple syrup on my pancakes. Some things weren’t technically “foreign,” but they still came a long way: books printed in New York, apples grown in Washington orchards, and beer brewed in St. Louis.

Within the narrow confines of my apartment was an expansive world market — a veritable microcosm of the global economy.

What startled me most wasn’t that so much had traveled so far. Rather, it was that I found nothing from my own city. While I had purchased some items in Madison, they didn’t originate here.

What about the “buy local” bandwagon? If I were to follow the consumer movement du jour to its fullest extent, I’d be much poorer. Because of a much more constrained division of labor, I’d spend more money on lower quality goods. I probably wouldn’t even have coffee, and I certainly wouldn’t own an Italian necktie.

Yet I don’t intentionally avoid local goods. Every Saturday morning, like a ritual, I visit the county farmers market. I buy delicious seasonal fruits, vegetables, and cheeses from nearby farmers — not because they’re local, but because they’re the best. Produce tends to be tastier if it hasn’t spent a week on a flatbed.

Adam Smith once wrote, “In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest.” The less trade is restricted between individuals and across borders, the more “the body of people” can “buy whatever they want” the “cheapest.” As society becomes more and more integrated, we can better take advantage of the division of labor, leading to lower prices, greater prosperity, and a higher standard of living for everyone.

When I buy a preferable foreign product instead of its domestic counterpart, I obviously benefit myself. I receive a better product at a better price. I also clearly help the foreign producer.

I benefit the domestic economy, too. By purchasing cheaper foreign goods, I reserve more of my money to spend elsewhere, including in domestic exchange. More importantly, I send a signal to domestic producers: don’t waste your time making that thing! By doing so, I incentivize domestic producers to reallocate their resources to more highly valued endeavors.

It’s true that free trade and globalization make the rich richer. But they also make the poor richer. Trade provides cell phones to people in developing countries. It increases wages. It fosters international peace. And it makes denizens of tiny dwellings feel like the freest, richest people in the world.

Four hundred fifty square feet doesn’t sound like much. Yet somehow I’ve managed to fit states, countries, and even continents inside. The most remarkable thing of all? I didn’t intend for this to happen. I didn’t decide one day to start purchasing only “foreign” goods. I never consciously attempted to avail myself of “exotic” treasures.

Nobody ever intends for this to happen. Every day, we make countless, often subconscious cost-benefit analyses. When it comes to purchasing actual goods, we weigh all the factors we care about — price, quality, size, shape, taste, and so on. We search for the highest quality consumer goods within our respective price ranges. Just by buying what we like, we unwittingly amass personal bazaars.

We are capable of planning only for our individual selves. Despite the ubiquity of cosmopolitan collections of consumer goods, nobody could ever plan for such a thing. We simply lack the capacity to organize an entire economy to fit our specific needs.

This was the keen insight of economist F.A. Hayek, who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his Nobel Prize. While he admitted that “all economic activity” involves planning, not all planning is the same. Because there’s “no dispute about whether planning is to be done or not,” what matters is “whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals.”

My apartment has only one window, but I feel like I can see the whole world. Every treasure I own is a window to a place I’ve never been and to people I’ve never met.

Joseph S. Diedrich is a Young Voices Advocate, a law student at the University of Wisconsin, and assistant editor at

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

Dissent Under Socialism – Article by Sanford Ikeda

Dissent Under Socialism – Article by Sanford Ikeda

The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
August 26, 2014

The Daily Mail reports that “France’s Socialist government provoked outrage … by becoming the first in the world to ban protests against Israeli action in Palestine.” The socialist interior minister justified the ban by citing the potential for violent clashes in Paris between opposing groups, which he deemed a “threat to public order.”

My object here is not to comment on any aspect of the conflict in the Middle East or on this ban, which may or may not be justified. What caught my eye in the story is the following quote:

Sylvie Perrot, another pro-Palestine activist from Paris, said: “Fascist states stop people demonstrating against wars—it is beyond belief that French Socialists are following their example.”

Au contraire! 

If you understand the nature of socialism, it’s quite believable.

Collectivism and dissent

Let me begin by defining “collectivism” as any economic system in which the State controls the principal means of production. Collectivism requires central planning of some kind over the resources the State controls. The particular brand of collectivism we’re talking about depends on the aims of the controllers. 

In theory, “socialism” aims to unite people around the world regardless of nationality toward a common internationalist goal, while in theory “fascism” aims to unite people of a particular nation toward a common nationalist goal. The ends differ but all forms of collectivism use the same means: State control (de facto or de jure) over the means of production. Given their common collectivist roots, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that fascism and socialism employ similar policies.

Even more than that, however, F. A. Hayek points out, in The Road to Serfdom:  

That socialism so long as it remains theoretical is internationalist, while as soon as it is put into practice … it becomes violently nationalist, is one of the reasons why “liberal socialism” as most people in the Western world imagine it is purely theoretical, while the practice of socialism is everywhere totalitarian.

I would recommend the chapters in The Road to Serfdom where Hayek explains why this is the case (especially “Individualism and Collectivism,” “Planning and Democracy,” “Planning and the Rule of Law,” and “The Socialist Roots of Naziism”), but here are two important points in that explanation.

First, to the degree that the State undertakes central planning of the resources it controls, it can’t allow any person to interfere with or oppose the plan. Or, as Hayek puts it, “If the state is precisely to foresee the incidence of its actions, it means that it can leave those affected no choice.”

Second, the more resources the State controls, the wider the scope and more detailed its planning necessarily becomes so that delay in any part of the system becomes intolerable. There is little room for unresponsiveness, let alone dissent. Hayek again:

If people are to support the common effort without hesitation, they must be convinced that not only the end aimed at but also the means chosen are the right ones. The official creed, to which adherence must be enforced, will therefore comprise all the views about facts on which the plan is based. Public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken public support. [emphasis added]

My point is that even if genuine socialism of some kind did exist in France (or anywhere else), the government there could not allow spontaneous political demonstrations, for the reasons Hayek outlines in The Road to Serfdom. Collective political ends must trump individual expression. 

That a socialist government would ban political demonstrations should then come as no surprise.

The problem is central planning 

Friends of mine have objected that these arguments are misplaced because genuine socialism doesn’t exist in France, and that political parties who brand themselves “socialist” aren’t really socialist at all, at least in the sense defined here. 

But Hayek’s point is that intolerance for dissent grows with the scope of central planning. Thus, the principle also applies in the case of a mixed economy, such as the United States, with more limited central planning. To the extent that the U.S. government tries to pursue collectivist ends—say, during times of war—the greater the pressure on public officials to quell open displays of protest.

Moreover, the more things the central government plans for, the less freedom—of expression, assembly, association—there can be. If the State controls all means of production and all resources are placed in the hands of the authorities, then in effect all forms of expression—in politics, science, religion, art—are political and any form of dissent from the official creed is intolerable and must be forbidden. That would lead, and has led, to the death of free inquiry, because dissent, rebellion, and radical criticism are essential to the growth of knowledge.

One of the political virtues of private property is that it establishes a sphere of autonomy in which we are safe from the threat of physical violence. In that sphere of autonomy, we can say or not say, or do or not do, anything we like, so long as we don’t initiate physical violence against others. Private property is the garage where we can form a band or invent the personal computer or paint protest signs. As private property disappears, not only do our economic liberties disappear, but so too do our political liberties.

What is not forbidden …

Indeed, taken to its logical conclusion, under pure collectivism no freedom at all would remain, and not only the freedom to peacefully assemble in protest against government activities. In a completely collectivist system, it’s not a stretch to say that what isn’t forbidden would in fact be mandatory.

From California, which at least for now is a ways off from pure collectivism, comes an even-nuttier though still-scary scenario:

A Southern California couple received a letter from Glendora city officials threatening to fine them $500 if they don’t get their sun-scorched brown lawn green again, reports AP. Which Laura Whitney and Michael Korte would gladly do, except for one thing: They could also be fined $500 if they water their lawn too much; they’re currently only watering twice a week.

Thus, what is mandatory may also be forbidden. Don’t forget, 1984 was 30 years ago.

Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.
This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.