by Glen Wallace

It would seem that Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom’ is largely a negative work rather than a positive one insofar as the scope of the book entails what sort of system to avoid, a socialist one, without delving into the sort of system we should create. This is the case even though Hayek admitted early in his book that government involvement in the planning and formation of an economic system is necessary for an economic system to meet the ideals of a competitive marketplace that he espouses. The problem here is that myself and others may be envisioning a system that may have some elements of socialism but is absent all of the worst traditional attributes of socialism that are the focus of Hayek’s critique.

Instead, Hayek seems to have this naive notion that if we just let capitalist business people do what ever they want without government intervention, the consumer and the market itself will do all the governing.  What Hayek is ignoring is the tendency for capitalists to jeopardize the environment and the health of the consumer long before the offending business is penalized by the consumer.  That is, a business could be polluting into the groundwater or selling poisonous food or drink to the consumer for years before any consumer realizes what the business is doing and thus stop patronizing such businesses.  Such a delayed method of governing is far from ideal — I would say downright negligent.  I would think everyone would agree that with any problem or potential problem, being proactive is a far superior methodology for dealing with it than waiting for a problem to get so bad that it can no longer be ignored before dealing with it.  And I don’t see any other way of being effectively proactive with the potential problem of offenses by businesses against workers, the environment or consumers than through powerful central government oversight and intervention.

While I haven’t yet read through the entire ‘Road to Serfdom’ I think I read enough to get the gist of it, and yet I still am completely baffled how Hayek seems to think a well regulated marketplace is the route to serfdom.  I still think Hayek has it completely backwards.  Hasn’t laissez faire capitalism always been the direct route to serfdom?  And why wont a free market continue to lead to serfdom?  And isn’t ‘free market capitalism’ just a rebranding of the term ‘laissez faire capitalism’?  Wasn’t that rebranding done because laissez faire capitalism had justifiably developed a tarnished image to due to its tendency to lead to the hazards of capitalism such as indentured servitude, sweat shops, hazardous products, toxic pollution, slavery and serfdom?




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