Levy on “Serfdom Shortcuts”

I’m a bit late here, but Jacob Levy has a must-read piece about the lesser-understood, right-wing dangers that FA Hayek worried about in The Road to Serfdom.

“The Shortcut to Serfdom”: Jacob Levy (Niskanen Center)

Like the book, Levy’s post jams more insight into a small amount of text than I thought possible.

Hayek’s seminal work cautions readers about the dangers of economic collectivism; that the apparatus and mindset necessary to force state-sanctioned economic equality could very easily be used to limit other core freedoms.

A lesser-remembered point in the book, Levy reminds us, is that this “serfdom” relied on right-leaning–i.e. fascist–tactics and theories to get there:

The prewar socialist parties had, “without knowing it, set themselves a task which only the ruthless ready to disregard the barriers of accepted morals can execute.” The socialists were, however, too constrained by democratic scruples to carry the task out; “they did not possess the ruthlessness required.” And so fascist parties, which did possess that ruthlessness, took command. The evil to be avoided is, particularly, the triumph of the ruthless, lawless authoritarians of the right. The critique of socialists is that they pave the way for that triumph.

So you can’t get to a far-left “serfdom” without fascists, who, once in power, would prove to be worse than the former.

Levy thus cautions contemporary libertarians and conservatives against supporting Trump; getting a few tax breaks and some token regulatory relief isn’t worth condoning what might wind up becoming a “shortcut to serfdom”: totalitarianism without the socialist middle-man.

For brevity’s sake, I’ve omitted several other interesting points and context that Levy provides. The entire post is worth a read.


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