Monday, 12 December 2011

On the gist of "The Road to Serfdom"

It is usual to summarise the gist of “The Road to Serfdom” as the thesis of that an increasing level of government intervention in markets inevitably leads to further interventions. A commonplace and an even more common error of interpretation. That thesis is not Friedrich Hayek’s, but Ludwig v. Mises’.

What is pointed out in “The Road to Serfdom” is that dirigisme requires quick and pragmatic solutions to problems arisen by the unintended consequences of its own interventions. In this scenario, the constitutional system of checks and balances appears as an obstacle to achieve an expedient solution to such problems –and this is indeed its proper function.

Thus, the constitutional requirement of passing a law by the Congress or Parliament is considered as too slow a process for dirigisme. In the road to serfdom, disregarding the constitutional proceedings to pass a law, both formal and substantial, the executive branch receives, increasingly, extraordinary faculties to legislate in order to solve the maladies that previous policies had engendered. That is how matters of expedience subdue reasons based on principles.

One could agree or not on the possibility or probability of that process to take place. Notwithstanding, that is the “road to serfdom” as Hayek stated it, not the misleading formulation that we usually find in several discussions related to him.