Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bertrand Russell on Hayek (Sort of)

(Okay, not exactly ON Hayek, but it is rather Hayekian.  The timing doesn't work out very well, since this was published in 1912.  But who knew that B. Russell was a proto-Austrian?)

From Proposed Roads to Freedom (1918): "We come next to the consideration of the economic power of the State and the influence which it can exert through its bureaucracy. State Socialists argue as if there would be no danger to liberty in a State not based upon capitalism. This seems to me an entire delusion. Given an official caste, however selected, there are bound to be a set of men whose whole instincts will drive them toward tyranny. 

Together with the natural love of power, they will have a rooted conviction (visible now in the higher ranks of the Civil Service) that they alone know how to be able to judge what is good for the community. Like all men who administer a system, they will come to feel the system itself is sacrosanct. The only changes they will desire will be changes in the direction of further regulations as to how the people are to enjoy the good things kindly granted to them by their benevolent despots. 

Whoever thinks this picture overdrawn must have failed to study the influence and methods of Civil Servants at present. On every matter that arises, they know far more than the general public about all the definite facts involved; the one thing they do not know is "where the shoe pinches." 

Very cool.  Sent by the optimally skeptical Zach Weinersmith...  (Good one from Zach yesterday, btw)

1 comment:

Patrick Sullivan said...

Not to worry, Keynes was watching out for us;

I should therefore conclude your theme rather differently. I should say what we want is not no planning, or even less planning, indeed I should say that we almost certainly want more. But the planning should take place in community in which as many people as possible, both leaders and followers wholly share your own moral position. Moderate planning will be safe if those carrying it out are rightly oriented in their own minds and hearts to the moral issue. [ This is in fact already true of some of them. But the curse is that there is also an important section who could almost be said to want planning not in order to enjoy its fruits but because morally they hold ideas exactly the opposite of yours, and wish to serve not God but the devil. ]*

What we need therefore, in my opinion, is not a change in our economic programmes, which would only lead in practice to disillusion with the results of your philosophy; but perhaps even the contrary, namely, an enlargement of them. [ Your greatest danger ahead is the probable practical failure of the application of your philosophy in the United States in a fairly extreme form. No, what we need is the restoration of right moral thinkingㅡa return to proper moral values in our social philosophy. If only you could turn your crusade in that direction you would not look or feel quite so much like Don Quixote. I accuse you of perhaps confusing a little bit the moral and the material issues. ]** Dangerous acts can be done safely in a community which thinks and feels rightly, which would be the way to hell if they were executed by those who think and feel wrongly.