In Hayek’s famous 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, he warned that the intellectual and political classes of the democracies of that time were embracing some of the same ideas that inspired Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Russia: comprehensive government planning, hyper regulation of industry, nationalization, welfare statism, and collectivism in general. He did not predict that these societies would end up “in serfdom,” however, as some have mistakenly claimed. Quite the contrary. In his first chapter he clearly stated that he hoped the ideas in the book would help these countries to avoid that disastrous fate. He hoped the ideas of the book would be a roadblock on the road to serfdom.
The eleventh chapter of The Road to Serfdom is entitled “The End of Truth,” about the historical imperative in all totalitarian states throughout history to destroy freedom of speech so that the only true belief is “the social plan” imposed by the state, whatever that may be. This is achieved by relentless institutionalized lying and propaganda, coupled with harsh censorship of all contrary ideas or even questions about the propriety of forcefully imposing one single “social plan.” This is American society today, in other words, in case you haven’t noticed. (Socialism, Hayek said, has always been about substituting the plans of politicians for the plans that all of the citizens make for themselves. It’s not a matter of planning versus no planning, but who is to do the planning).
The significance of propaganda in totalitarian countries, Hayek wrote, is that “If all the sources of current information are effectively under one single control, it is no longer a question of merely persuading people of this or that. The skillful propagandist then has power to mold . . . minds in any direction he chooses . . .” Jeff Deist, among others, has commented that America today has become a “post-persuasion society” and he is right, almost eighty years after Hayek issued this warning. The Left is no longer willing to seriously debate anything – at least for the time being while they control the universities, all three branches of government, the media, (laughingly-named) “entertainment” industries, and more. Even dopey Prince Harry publicly denounced the First Amendment in a pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with Hollywood Leftists like his wife shortly after divorcing himself from his family and moving to Hollywood. If you disagree with their latest version of socialist totalitarianism (“woke-ism” coupled with green hysteria and calls for worldwide central planning), then you can be canceled, smeared as a racist, a white supremacist, or even fired from your job and prevented from getting a new one.
The moral consequences of totalitarian propaganda are even more profound. It is “destructive of all morals” because it “undermines one of the foundations of all morals: the sense and respect for the truth.” An avalanche of Official Lies has always been the tool of “various theoreticians of the totalitarian system,” wrote Hayek, citing Plato’s “noble lies” and “social myths” championed by the French philosopher Georges Sorel. The ends justify the lying means to totalitarians everywhere. When was the last time a “White House spokesperson” did not lie in public? (See my 1992 book, Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, with James T. Bennett).
Of course minority opinions “must also be silenced” and “every act of the government must become sacrosanct and exempt from criticism.” This was never more on display than in government responses to the “pandemic” of 2020, followed by the Biden campaign and its collusion with “Big Tech” to censor even the president of the United States along with massive evidence of the colossal criminality and corruption of the Biden family crime syndicate. This was arguably the biggest governmental assault on the First Amendment, apparently organized by the FBI and CIA, since it was essentially done away with by the John Adams administration’s “Sedition Act.”
Academe must also be thoroughly corrupted, said Hayek, for “the disinterested search for truth cannot be allowed in a totalitarian system.” American universities have gone almost all the way down to the end of the road to serfdom in this regard. Many have fallen off the cliff completely. This is especially true, said Hayek, of the disciplines of history, law, and economics. They must be compromised in a way that supports the state rather than criticizes it, however mildly. The American history profession is almost completely dominated by Marxists, for example, and economics has been plagued by Keynesian central planners and “market failure theorists” for decades. As Doug Casey once remarked, most economists today “are political apologists masquerading as economists.” They “prescribe the way they would like the world to work and tailor theories to help politicians demonstrate the virtue and necessity of their quest for more power.” The field of economics, said Casey, “has been turned into the handmaiden of government in order to give a scientific justification for things the government . . . wants to do.”
In totalitarian societies, wrote Hayek, truth is not something that is discovered by learning, education, self-study, research, and debate and discussion. Instead, it is “something to be laid down by authority . . .” In today’s world, for example, global warming hysteria is “settled science,” the most un-scientific phrase ever uttered. A true scientist always questions the status quo, not necessarily rejecting it but keeping an open mind that new research can alter his thinking. Nothing is ever “settled.” How a slippery politician like Al Gore is considered to be an expert on the philosophy of science – and atmospheric science to boot — is one of the wonders of the world. (Don’t forget that the notion that the earth was flat was once declared to be “settled science” by the Al Gores of that day).
Medical science is not science, we have been told; Anthony Fauci is medical science. Or rather, the “authority” of Anthony Fauci, a grotesquely overpaid government bureaucrat is science. Again, nothing is more un-scientific than these ridiculous, arrogant, and tyrannical pronouncements by Anthony Fauci and his political sidekicks.
“[I]ntolerance, too, is openly extolled,” in totalitarian societies said Hayek, anticipating by decades the 1960s-era “New Left” hero, the totalitarian intellectual Herbert Marcuse, who authored a widely-celebrated paper on “repressive tolerance,” the idea that only “the oppressed classes” deserve free speech. In the world of the 60s “New Left,” whose students and political descendants now control almost all of academe, television, the media in general, much of government, “woke” corporations, and other institutions, the “oppressor class” is comprised essentially of all white heterosexual males, especially ones of European descent. Everyone else is oppressed by them, the theory goes. The poorest, lowliest, white redneck is said to “oppress” black millionaires and billionaires. Question this theory in our post-persuasion society and you will be labeled a racist, a white supremacist, and probably even a Nazi.
Hayek based these ideas on his years of study of world history and of the totalitarian regimes of the early twentieth century. “Wokeness” did not just suddenly appear and proceed to take over almost the entire Western world. It is just the latest manifestation of totalitarianism that has been marching through the institutions for several generations. There are always totalitarians in our midst, the title of Chapter 13 of The Road to Serfdom, and today’s totalitarians consider themselves to be standing on the shoulders of all those who preceded them, however unsavory they might have been. That is why many on the Left celebrated after the worldwide collapse of socialism in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “We no longer have to be associated with monsters like Stalin, Mao, Nicolae Ceaucescu, and other mass-murdering communists of the twentieth century,” they said. And like all other totalitarians who came before them, they fully understand that freedom of speech is to them what sunlight or a Christian cross is to Dracula. That is why they are all now hellbent on destroying Elon Musk, a man who is attempting to add a tiny smidgen of free speech to the stifling, statist political correctness of American society. Their treatment of Musk will eventually make their treatment of Donald Trump seem like a love fest in comparison.
Their hatred for Trump, by the way, is derived from the same source as their hatred for Elon Musk: Like Musk, Trump called out and publicized many of the official lies and official liars of the Washington establishment, especially those in the “fake news” business. The Left considers the fight over free speech to be a political death struggle, and they are right about that. If anything deserves to be strangled in its crib it is the Left’s current assault on the First Amendment.