Reading Hayek

It’s nice to see that you aren’t alone in how you see the world working. Reading Hayek’s 1944 exposition on the individual vs the intrusive state, I’m struck by his thoughts on the pros and cons of both approaches. The bit that resonates with me, having spent time as an enforcement officer, is the difference between the rule of law (One rule for all – occasional lapses of ‘Justice’) and attempting to legislate ‘morality’ (Creation of privileged minorities – ‘Justice’ begins to disappear altogether – for everyone).

‘Morality’ to me is rather a subjective term, and perhaps therefore not the best basis for legislation. What might be moral for a far right religious fundamentalist for example, say pray every day, death to the infidel (As self avowed ‘infidel’ I take this rather amiss), women as second class citizens, whatever, looks like perpetuating the same old mess. Similarly; the far left pro libertine (as opposed to libertarian) perspective of enforcing the ‘rights’ of minorities instead of simply agreeing that everyone has the same rights. By ‘rights’ I mean the rights to freedom to own property, go where you please, work at what you please, believe what you please, say what you please, and to live how the heck you please so long as you don’t cause deliberate harm to anyone else and are tolerant of the rights of others. Regardless of age, belief system or cultural heritage. If my neighbours want to dance half naked round their garden wearing nothing but goat skin loincloths I won’t bat an eyelid (I might giggle at them a lot if they did and post the pictures online – but that’s the downside of such behaviour – right?). Just so long as they don’t demand that I do as they do. When it comes to ‘rights’, I most certainly do not mean something like ‘Freedom from poverty’ (Want to be poor? Don’t want to try to do better? Your choice) which means other people are paying for your ‘rights’. Especially Freedom from ‘being offended’, which means no-one else can have an opinion differing from your own (You’re ‘offended’ by the opinions of others? Tough shit you intolerant little tit – now fuck off and die, no one forces you to read). In my books ‘Freedom to’ trumps ‘Freedom from’ every time. Although those who screw around with me without provocation should be aware that I reserve the ‘right’ of creative retaliation.

The other thing I ‘get’ is the futility of rigid planning when it comes to humanity. In war and peace it is said that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’, and the old and discredited road of ‘five year plans’ etc is littered with the detritus of failure. So why, when the evidence of experience clearly demonstrates that too much planning leads to failure, are said plans trumpeted as ‘the only way forward’? Phrases like ‘the triumph of hope over experience’ and remarks about the definition of insanity being repetition and the expectation of differing results spring jack-in-the-box style to mind. For example; journeys planned to inflexible schedules which do not include a significant ‘jesus factor’ for flat tyres, traffic conditions, doses of unscheduled minor illness (on anyone’s part), or mechanical breakdown of any sort will be high blood pressure affairs at best.

On a personal note; posting has been erratic because firstly I’m exercising my freedom to be busy on other projects. Secondly, during the recent windstorm, the local trees have been exercising their freedom to fall on the power lines. This has denied me my ‘right’ to a constant electricity supply. However, I exercised my freedom to use alternative means of heating, and didn’t worry too much. Still, the Hydro crews have (Bless ’em) exercised their freedom to rush all hands to the pumps so the electricity was back up and running within four hours. Therefore they will get paid extra overtime and perhaps time off in lieu to exercise their freedom to spend money on nice holidays or pay off the mortgage early, neither of which they should be begrudged. They earned it, and the product of their honest extra sweat should not be stolen via taxation to pay for the chosen extra leisure of others.

As an addendum; I’m amused to see that there’s even an online comic book of Hayek’s seminal work. To be frank, the cartoon version’s a bit simplistic, and dare I say a piece of classic propaganda of its own, but still worth a look.

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