Friday, January 3, 2014

Orwell on Hayek

Apparently George Orwell reviewed The Road to Serfdom (alongside The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus) and liked a lot of it.
It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.
Professor Hayek is also probably right in saying that in this country the intellectuals are more totalitarian-minded than the common people.
But he did not like Hayek's alternative.
But he does not see, or will not admit, that a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.
In his review, Orwell suggests no solution; instead he submits to pessimism.
Both of these writers are aware of this, more or less; but since they can show no practicable way of bringing it about the combined effect of their books is a depressing one.
Worth the two minutes it takes to read.


  1. I wonder what examples Orwell had in mind with, "... but in practice that is where it has led..."

  2. Hayek confronts this. It is unfair of Orwell not to acknowledge it in his review:

    "Anyone who has observed how aspiring monopolists regularly seek the assistance of the state to make their control effective can have little doubt that there is nothing inevitable about this development. In the United States a highly protectionist policy aided the growth of monopolies. In Germany the growth of cartels has since 1878 been systematically fostered by deliberate policy. It was here, with the help of the state, the first great experiment in 'scientific planning' and 'conscious organization of industry' led to the creation of giant monopolies. The suppression of competition was a matter of deliberate policy in Germany, undertaken in the service of an ideal which we now call planning...
    "The movement toward planning is the result of deliberate action. No external necessities force us to it (The Road to Serfdom with The Intellectuals and Socialism, 60-61, 2005 IEA edition)."

  3. Very interesting!
    BTW, I was reminded of this article written by Jennifer Roback.
    ●Jennifer Roback, "The Economic Thought of George Orwell"