Hayek on the Decay of Democracy

Friedrich Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. Vol. 3 The Political Order of a Free People. 1979. Chapter 13, “The Division of Democratic Powers.” Pg 31-32.

A system which may place any small group in the position to hold a society to ransom if it happens to be the balance between opposing groups, and can extort special privileges for its support of a party, has little to do with democracy or ‘social justice’. But it is the unavoidable product of the unlimited power of a single elective assembly not precluded from discrimination by a restriction of its powers either to true legislation or to government under a law which it cannot alter.

Not only will such a system produce a government driven by blackmail and corruption, but it will also produce laws which are disapproved by the majority and in their long-run effects may lead to the decline of the society. . . .

A further peculiar sort of bias of government created by the necessity to gain votes by benefiting particular groups or activities operates indirectly through the need to gain the support of those second-hand dealers of ideas, mainly in what are now called the ‘media’ , who largely determine public opinion.

Worth pondering.

Hayek on Democracy

Here’s a quote from Friedrich Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. It appears in the 3rd volume, The Political Order of a Free People, in the chapter on MAJORITY OPINION AND CONTEMPORARY DEMOCRACY, page 4:

May it not be true, as has been well said, that ‘the belief in democracy presupposes belief in things higher than democracy’? And is there really no other way for people to maintain a democratic government than by handing over unlimited power to a group of elected representatives whose decisions must be guided by the exigencies of a bargaining process in which they bribe a sufficient number of voters to support an organized group of themselves numerous enough to outvote the rest?

What are things that are higher than democracy? A belief in the sovereignty of law, and obedience to the rules of just conduct.

All That is Good and Living in Us

Nirad C Chaudhuri (1897 – 1999) dedicated his book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951), to the British Empire.

To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
But withheld citizenship.
To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge:
“Civis Britannicus sum”
Because all that was good and living within us
Was made, shaped and quickened
By the same British rule.

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Happy Birthday, Tibor Scitovsky

Early in my study of economics in the 1990s, I came across Tibor Scitovsky’s 1976 book “The Joyless Economy: an inquiry into human satisfaction and consumer dissatisfaction.” Reading it, I realized that I was in the presence of a kindred spirit. I read that book with delight and an increasing understanding of what economics was all about. It was about humans and how they attempt to satisfy their innate drives, most of which derive from their biology and their evolutionary history as primates. Though I lived only a few miles from him (he lived in Stanford), I did not know it then and therefore never attempted to meet him. I later got to know that I also shared my birthday with him. Here’s how.
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Steven Pinker on Islamic Terrorism

Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature makes for interesting and informative reading. He answers the question, “Why violence has declined?”, which is the subtitle of the book. It does come as somewhat of a surprise that violence has historically declined in most of the world. The book provokes many “Aha!” moments. Read it for fun and profit, as they say. Here I post an extended excerpt. It’s a bit that will enlighten and delight the pseudo-secularists in India. (I am kidding. The p-secs would rather have red-hot nails hammered into their privates than admit the truth of what Pinker writes in this bit of his book.)
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Hayek on Equality

A brief excerpt from Friedrich Hayek’s essay, “Equality, Value and Merit.”

From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either the one or the other, but not both at the same time. The equality before the law which freedom requires leads to material inequality. Our argument will be that, though where the state must use coercion for other reasons, it should treat all people alike, the desire of making people more alike in their condition cannot be accepted in a free society as a justification for further and discriminatory coercion.

A careful reading of that essay (link above) is guaranteed to lead to profit and enlightenment. Read it a few times.

Open Thread: The Daylight Saving Time edition

snap1784 The twice a year reminder that daylight saving time (DST) is a prime example of collective idiocy is here. This morning (Sunday Nov 1st), at 2 AM, clocks in North America were set back one hour to 1 AM. Today will be 25 hours long, and to reverse this gain of one hour, March 8th 2016 will be only 23 hours long. Oh the insanity!
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