The Great Utopia



It is here that Hayek delves into the traditionally authoritative roots of socialism, bringing forward the example of early socialism which its founders during the French Revolution felt that it could only be put in practice through a dictatorial government. Then its transfer to being considered an agent of liberty in regards to the development of “democratic socialism”, and this saw greater acceptability in western societies.

It is established that democracy and socialism stood at an “irreconcilable conflict” through reference to Alexis de Tocqueville who stated:

“Democracy extends the sphere of the individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man,’ socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number.”

Further Hayek notes the development of thought in regards to people placing greater importance over economic freedom than political freedom, of which Hayek argues that one cannot have economic freedom without political freedom. Socialism aims to provide economic freedom without political freedom in that equality can be reached. To finish the Tocqueville quote:

“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude”

In this there is a change in the meaning of freedom from “freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men, etc.” to “freedom from necessity, and to free from the despotism of material want,”. He notes that rather it being a demand of a new freedom it was simply the old demand for equal distribution of wealth. In this he notes the appeal of socialism and its promise of greater freedom as it lured more liberals, from this he makes his most bold remarks in regards to socialism “The Road to Freedom was in fact The High Road to Servitude” and that to the followers of socialism in a progressive manner from liberalism that “it should appear inconceivable of socialism leading to the opposite of liberty”

This is then developed into the political sphere where at first approach communism and fascism appear to be at opposite poles, but to some extent they are actually the outcome of similar tendencies. Where “socialism achieved by democratic means seems definitely to belong to the world of utopias”

Then with reference to Italy and Germany as being examples where dictators arose from socialist backgrounds into fascist and Nazi forces respectively, which would appear to be at opposite sides of the spectrum but are ultimately as he notes was realised in 1930s Germany it was easy to transfer young communist to a Nazi and vice-versa. History tells the tale of how the two sides have clashed and Hayek argues this was because they sought the support of similar minds, as in actual fact they were both against the old type of liberalism. His use of Hitler and Mussolini as examples of the rise of Socialism is interesting in that when being taught history often the struggle between fascists and communists for power is portrayed and that they appealed to different parts of society. However, Hayek notes their similarities and that their forms of policy were rooted in socialism as the agent for pushing through authoritarianism and nationalism (notably through central control).

Thus, here Hayek concludes that those whom argue socialism can coincide with freedom have simply not yet realised the extent to which they are irreconcilable ideals. Ultimately stating that democratic socialism or individualist socialism, or however many ways socialists who still believe in liberal ideals express it are arguing for the creation of an impossible utopia.


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