Watch What You Wish For

Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom that we need to think long-term about the policies and ideas we propose for when you combine all the ideas adopted together over time in a nation and follow their natural consequences out into the future they can lead to serious, negative consequences that the original proponents would find objectionable, and which might do serious damage to the fabric of society as well as the welfare of the entire nation. Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom in a world reeling from World War II, however he recognized that the forces that brought the world to that sorry state were not confined to Germany and Italy, but rather were woven into the discourse of most of the western world at that time. If only more had recognized the tragic but natural consequences of the intellectual movements of the time we might have faced a very different century. Hayek’s quote below stresses this point.

That hodgepodge of ill-assembled and often inconsistent ideals which under the name of the Welfare State has largely replaced socialism as the goal of the reformers needs very careful sorting out if its results are not to be very similar to those of full-fledged socialism. This is not to say that some of its aims are not both practicable and laudable. But there are many ways in which we can work toward the same goal and in the present state of opinion there is some danger that our impatience for quick results may lead us to choose instruments which, though perhaps more efficient for achieving the particular ends, are not compatible with the preservation of a free society. The increasing tendency to rely on administrative coercion and discrimination where a modification of the general rules of law might, perhaps more slowly, achieve the same object, and to resort to direct state controls or to the creation of monopolistic institutions where judicious use of financial inducements might evoke spontaneous efforts, is still a powerful legacy of the socialist period which is likely to influence policy for a long time to come.
F.A Hayek, The Road To Serfdom


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