Wednesday, 21 August 2019

"We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage... If we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost." #QotD


"We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a program which seems neither a mere defense of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical, and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote. The practical compromises they must leave to the politicians. Free trade and freedom of opportunity are ideals which still may arouse the imaginations of large numbers, but a mere "reasonable freedom of trade" or a mere "relaxation of controls" is neither intellectually respectable nor likely to inspire any enthusiasm.
    "The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote. Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this had rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost."

          ~ Friedrich Hayek, from his 1949 essay 'The Intellectuals & Socialism'
[Hat tip Peter Boettke]
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2 comments:

  1. The battle IS lost. The Barbarians are taking you to a dark ages. Intellect is of no use. Full scale revolution is required, but sheep do not do revolution.

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  2. I love the spirit of this. But I can only partially agree with the idea that we should "not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible". In one sense that's right; extreme views consistently held can become mainstream over time, even if they have no chance of being implemented in the short term. They cause a shift the 'Overton Window' (the window of acceptable political ideas at any point in time) in the direction towards which it needs to go. But when it comes to affecting political change, you do have to concern yourself with what is politically possible, and make incremental changes in the right direction that over time add up to something significant. Both approaches are required for different roles, and either without the other will be ineffectual.

    I liken it to driving a car to a distant destination - you need to keep your eye on both the big picture road map, but also the detail of what is happening on the road right in front of you. Lose sight of the roadmap and you'll never get to your destination; lose sight of the road in front of you and you'll crash and never get to your destination either.

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