More than one road to serfdom | Bleader

More than one road to serfdom


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The indispensable Christopher Hayes, now Washington editor of the Nation, puts an old book and a new one in perspective at In These Times:

"Written in exile, while Europe burned, The Road to Serfdom’s simple but powerful thesis was that the encroachment of the state into economic affairs inevitably leads to an encroachment in all spheres. For Hayek and his intellectual descendants -- from Friedman (Milton) to Friedman (Thomas) -- political freedom and economic freedom were inseparable and mutually reinforcing. And over the last 30 years, the adherents of the Friedman/Hayek School have pointed to two coincidental trends in global political economy to back this grand claim: First, the fall of command-and-control economies and the dismantling of welfare states. The second, the rise of democratic governance. With cunning aplomb, neoliberal writers and historians have packaged these two distinct phenomena together as one single story of progress and development. Look: Freedom’s on the march!

"[Naomi] Klein resurrects Hayek’s argument and inverts it, showing how time and again, the 'economic freedom' envisioned by Hayek and his ilk has been imposed at the expense of political freedom, often, Klein writes, 'midwifed by the most brutal forms of coercion.' From Chile to Iraq, majorities empowered to choose their own government don’t start clamoring for flat taxes, privatized post offices and an end to controls on foreign capital. Instead, they often form unions or call for increased social spending. The Shock Doctrine is an encyclopedic catalog of the tactics that governments, corporations and economists have used to impose -- usually over popular opposition -- what Klein calls the 'policy trinity' of the Chicago-School program: 'the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending.'"

Read the whole thing, because Hayes doesn't stop thinking when he finds a good book he agrees with, and he doesn't hesitate to explain how Klein's book overreaches -- a quality too rare at all ends of the political spectrum. The comments are intelligent too.

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