The Spectacle Blog

Hayek on Socialism

By on 10.25.13 | 10:37AM

While reading through an interview given by the late, great Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, I came across this penetrating quote:

I've always doubted that the socialists had a leg to stand on intellectually. They have improved their argument slightly, but once you begin to understand that prices are an instrument of communication and guidance which embody more information than we directly have, the whole idea that you can bring about the same order based on the division of labor by simple direction from "experts" falls to the ground.

Similarly, the idea that you can arrange for distributions of incomes which correspond to some conception of merit or need is equally as foolish.

If you need prices, including the prices of labor, to direct people to go where they are needed, you cannot have another distribution except the one from the market principle.

I think that intellectually there is just nothing left of socialism.

This astute analysis from Hayek speaks to one of the major reasons why I'm not a liberal: to say that you're more compassionate and just looking out for "the little guy" is not enough. If you say you care but then employ intellectually vapid and practically impossible plans to help those in need, you either don't know what you're talking about or don't care at all, and are trying to grab more power, prestige, or Facebook friends for yourself.

Neither are enviable positions to be in.

For my fellow Christians who are skeptical of free-market capitalism, I'm all in favor of having those internal discussions about the most God-honoring, effective ways to help the least among us. But if you're a believer who takes the Bible seriously and you actively (or even passively) endorse government-enforced and funded "social justice," you're wrong. You may mean well, but you're wrong.

It doesn't work. It can't work. It's predicated on other peoples' money being redistributed and overseen by unaccountable, disconnected-from-the-results-of-their-decisions bureaucrats who are employed by the same government that runs FEMA, the Post Office, and bridges to nowhere all across the country.

Socialism, collectivism, and modern liberalism are all houses of cards—and not the really interesting Kevin Spacey kind. Free enterprise is not merely the “best of a bunch of crappy options.” It is a noble, entrepreneurial, life-saving, poverty-ending miracle in a fallen world. It prizes sacrifice and personal responsibility. It rewards calculated risk and pushes mankind to innovate. But it also requires a standard of morality and things like rule of law—and that is precisely where people of faith can appropriately help shape the destiny of a nation and her economy.

To amend the oft-used axiom: If you’re 20 and not a socialist, you don’t have a heart. If you’re 40 and not a capitalist, you probably majored in Fine Arts and are ruining this country. Knock it off.

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