Healthcare/Welfare and the Great Mistakes of the 20th Century

From F.A Hayek The Road to Serfdom Chapter 2:

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives — the craving for freedom — socialism began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom.” The coming of socialism was to be the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. It was to bring “economic freedom,” without which the political freedom already gained was “not worth having.” Only socialism was capable of effecting the consummation of the age-long struggle for freedom, in which the attainment of political freedom was but the first step.

The subtle change in meaning to which the word “freedom” was subjected in order that this argument should sound plausible is important. To the great apostles of political freedom the word had meant freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men, release from the ties which left the individual no choice but obedience to the orders of a superior to whom he was attached. The new freedom promised, however, was to be the freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us, although for some very much more than for others. Before man could be truly free, the “despotism of physical want” had to be broken, the “restraints of the economic system” relaxed.

Hmm. There is not just a little similarity with these arguments and the arguments posed for healthcare. Democrats argue that healthcare is not socialism. Pedantically speaking that may be correct. But that is, in part, just a technicality. There are parallels here.

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  1. Boonton says:

    Capitalism too promises ‘freedom from physical want’. In fact the primary argument for capitalism is that it offers so many opportunities to be free from physical want. If capitalism didn’t do so all of its philosophical appeal articulated by people like Rand wouldn’t be worth the paper its printed on.

    As for parallels, the fact is Hayek was writing in a different age when there was a real debate between capitalism and socialism with socialism getting the upper hand in many of the arguments. The health care bill is a reform, not a revolution. And its a rather modest reform at that.

  2. John says:

    I quite like this profound essay on Freedom & Happiness

    Plus this related reference on the state of the world inevitably created by the adolescent anti-“culture” of competitive individualism