Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hayek on Implementing the "Mandate of the People"

"Yet agreement that planning is necessary, together with the inability of democratic assemblies to produce a plan, will evoke stronger and stronger demands that the government or some single individual should be given powers to act on their own responsibility. The belief is becoming more and more widespread that, if things are to get done, the responsible authorities must be freed from the fetters of democratic procedure....  Hitler did not have to destroy democracy; he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done."  --F.A. Hayek
In this section of quotes from F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," discusses how a true agreement on what the "mandate of the people" means is actually quite elusive, but the government will feel the need to take action regardless and take steps to centrally manage the economy to fulfill the people's "mandate."

Recall that it is not the government's job to select a common end for the people.  To be free, citizens must be allowed to select their own ends ("...within these spheres the individual’s system of ends should be supreme and not subject to any dictation by others. It is this recognition of the individual as the ultimate judge of his ends, the belief that as far as possible his own views ought to govern his actions, that forms the essence of the individualist position." -- F.A. Hayek).

--Against All Enemies

(Emphasis is mine.)

"We can rely on voluntary agreement to guide the action of the state only so long as it is confined to spheres where agreement exists. But not only when the state undertakes direct control in fields where there is no such agreement is it bound to suppress individual freedom.
[...]

The people may have agreed on adopting a system of directed economy because they have been convinced that it will produce great prosperity. In the discussions leading to the decision, the goal of planning will have been described by some such term as “common welfare,” which only conceals the absence of real agreement on the ends of planning. Agreement will in fact exist only on the mechanism to be used. But it is a mechanism which can be used only for a common end; and the question of the precise goal toward which all activity is to be directed will arise as soon as the executive power has to translate the demand for a single plan into a particular plan. Then it will appear that the agreement on the desirability of planning is not supported by agreement on the ends the plan is to serve.
[...]

The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Parliaments come to be regarded as ineffective “talking shops,” unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they have been chosen. The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be “taken out of politics” and placed in the hands of experts—permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies.
[...]

The delegation of particular technical tasks to separate bodies, while a regular feature, is yet only the first step in the process whereby a democracy which embarks on planning progressively relinquishes its powers.
[...]

Yet agreement that planning is necessary, together with the inability of democratic assemblies to produce a plan, will evoke stronger and stronger demands that the government or some single individual should be given powers to act on their own responsibility. The belief is becoming more and more widespread that, if things are to get done, the responsible authorities must be freed from the fetters of democratic procedure.
[...]

It is important to remember that, for some time before 1933, Germany had reached a stage in which it had, in effect, had to be governed dictatorially....
Hitler did not have to destroy democracy; he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done."

Hayek, F. A. (2010-10-22). The Road to Serfdom (pp. 103-109). University of Chicago Press - A. Kindle Edition. 

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Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own, and do not reflect the opinions or official positions of any United States Government agency, organization or department.

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