In 1940, Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom that it is, “the lowest common denominator which unites the largest number of people.” This is one reason, wrote Hayek, that the worst always seem to rise to the top in the government.
Hayek wrote that the Road to Serfdom involves chipping away at small liberties in order to fix the problems with government and war. The following cartoon very much resembles current figures in the American political system. Perhaps America is already on one of the final steps in this process: step 12!
This comic strip first appeared in The Reader’s Digest edition of the Road to Serfdom, published in 1945.
Step 1: The first step on the Road to Serfdom is war. Terror and danger are used to justify sacrificing a little liberty for security.
Step 2: Many want “planning” to stay. Even before the war is over, the planners who want to stay in power encourage the idea.
Step 3: The “Planners” promise Utopias . . . a rosy plan for farmers goes well in rural areas, a plan for industrial workers is popular in cities — and so on. Many new “planners” are elected to office.
Step 4: Planners cannot agree on ONE Utopia. Each has his own pet plan, won’t budge.
Step 5: When the “planners” finally patch up a temporary plan months later, citizens in turn disagree. What the farmer likes, the factory worker doesn’t like.
Step 6: “Planners” hate to force an agreement. Most “national planners” are well-meaning idealists, balk at any use of force. They hope for some miracle of public agreement as to their patchwork plan.
Step 7: They try to “sell” the plan to all. In an unsuccessful effort to educate people to uniform views, “planners” establish a giant propaganda machine — which the coming dictator will find handy.
Step 8: The gullible do find agreement. Meanwhile, growing national confusion leads to protest meetings. The least educated — thrilled and convinced by fiery oratory, lead a party.
Step 9: Confidence in “planners” fades. The more that the “planners” improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everybody suffers. People now feel — rightly — that “planners” can’t get things done!
Step 10: The “strong man” is given power. In desperation, “planners” authorize the new party leader to hammer out a plan and force its obedience. Later, they’ll dispense with him — or so they think.
Step 11: The party takes over the country. By now, confusion is so great that obedience to the new leader must be obtained at all costs.
Step 12: A negative aim welds party unity. An early step for all dictators is to inflame the majority in common cause against some scapegoat minority.
Step 13: No one opposes the leader’s plan. It would be suicide; new secret police are ruthless. Ability to force obedience always becomes the number one virtue in the “planned state.” Now all freedom is gone.
Your profession is “planned”
Your wages are “planned”
Your thinking is “planned”
Your recreation is “planned”
Your disciplining is “planned”