Wednesday, March 03, 2004

SHOW ME THE SERFDOM


Every once in a while when I get bored, I like to peruse conservative websites in an effort to keep abrest of whatever scourge the right wing is planning to unleash.

So here is what I found tonight: next week is the 60th anniversary of Fredrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom.

Hayek is the Karl Marx of neoliberalism--even more so than Adam Smith, because Hayek was able to make a moral argument for the tyranny of the market. In doing so, Hayek unleashed a movement bent on deconstructing the social contract painstakingly constracted in the years since the Great Depression. To this end, Hayek and those in business who supported his views convened the Mont Pelerin Society to wage an ideological/cultural war on behalf of market fundamentalism. Milton Friedman was one of the movements primary intellectual enablers.

RTS argued that any incursion of the state into the economy would unleash the unstoppable momentum--a slippery slope--toward tyranny and an end to freedom. To Hayek, it would only be a matter of time before the SEC would devolve into Stalinism (or worse, the New Deal). There is no doubt Grover Norquist oft found comfort in RTS during his awkward, hormone-crazed adolescent years.

Of course, Hayek concedes in RTS that some degree of statism is a necessary evil, at the minimum an institution to enforce contracts and dare to speak of other public goods. Therein arises a fallacy that seems to leave market fundamentalism--as far as concerns its internal validity as a social philosophy--with no legs on which to stand. Once state intervention comes into play, it is only a matter of to what degree--a question that is determined through a political process by which institutions are made.

After 25 some years of the neoliberal propagation throughout the vast majority of the world's national and international economic institutions, it seems we are actually more on the road to serfdom now than in the pre-neoliberal era that embraced the mixed economy (see these two articles for good discussions: Free Markets and Poverty and the Scorecard on Globalization).

While of little worth as a social philosophy, Hayek's work is incredibly valuable as a political instrument in establishing and maintaining cultural hegemony that sets the boundaries of economic discourse according to the preaching of market fundamentalism. As an idea, market fundamentalism is incredibly powerful in the way it creates a moral system based on hording private property. So it's no wonder why some groups in this world would want these ideas to stick around: they could be used as a political weapon.

But ideas, it turns out, need a material infrastructure in order to be promulgated and disseminated so that cultural hegemony may take root. And that's where our good friends over at Cato, American Enterprise, Heritage, and scores and scores of others come in (tomorrow, the National Center for Responsible Philanthropy releases its annual report on the role of conservative foundations in public policymaking...stay tuned). They are needed to continually celebrate, advocate and replicate these ideas.

What is most disturbing, at least to me personally, is that Daniel Yergin is part of this crowd. I certainly suspected as much after witnessing PBS's 6-hour long globalization propaganda film based on Yergin's book, The Commanding Heights, though I still held out hope. But I just can't fathom how someone who knows what Yergin knows about the military-petro-industrial complex after writing such a masterful book, The Prize, could still be in bed with these guys?!? C'est la guerre.

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