State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

Lincoln and Collectivism

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” -Abraham Lincoln

This was Abraham Lincoln’s way of describing our system of government.  As we have previously compared the Constitutions of the United States (based on individual liberty or negative government power) and the Soviet Union (based on the collective or positive government power), it is now necessary to look at why the differences are so important.  To do so, we will look at F. A. Hayek’s book The Road To Serfdom, as this book is a comprehensive look at collectivist thought and where it tends to lead.  Hayek had many examples to look at as Europe largely embraced collectivism in his time.  We will see that for the people to act collectively, they must have leadership and they must desire the same ends. We will see that these first two requirements tend to bring about many undesired, often unintended results.  This will bring us to the final question of who ends up a slave and who ends up a master?

What kind of leadership is necessary in a collectivist system?  From Hayek:

“…Just as the democratic statesman who set out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure.  It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism.  Who does not see this has not yet grasped the full width of the gulf which separates totalitarianism from a liberal [19th century meaning or Libertarian] regime, the utter difference between the whole moral atmosphere under collectivism and the essentially individualist Western civilization” (The Road To Serfdom, Page 158).

“That socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove is, of course, a lesson learned by many social reformers in the past.  The old socialist parties were inhibited by their democratic ideals; they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen task.  It is characteristic that both in Germany and in Italy the success of fascism was preceded by the refusal of the socialist parties to take over the responsibility of government.  They were unwilling wholeheartedly to employ the methods to which they had pointed the way.  They still hoped for the miracle of a majority’s agreeing on a particular plan for the organization of the whole of society; others had already learned the lesson that in a planned society the question can no longer be on what do a majority of the people agree but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to  make unified direction of all affairs possible; or if no such group large enough to enforce its views exists, how it can be created and who will succeed in creating it” (Page 160).

Hayek observes three main reasons that the leadership of the collective tends to end up coming from the worst instead of the best in society:

“In the first instance, it is probably true that, in general, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values…”

“Here comes in the second negative principle of selection: he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.  It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.

“It is in connection with the deliberate effort of the skillful demagogue to weld together a closely coherent and homogeneous body of supporters that the third and perhaps most important negative element of selection enters.  It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off—than on any positive task….”(Pages 160-161).

We see that to gain the power to have a collectivist system, there has to be a leader or small group of leaders.  In a democracy, these generally end up being those who will stoop the lowest to gain support.  Once support is given to a leader, how can he get support for an agenda?  Again from Hayek:

“The most effective way of making everybody serve the single system of ends toward which the social plan is directed is to make everybody believe in those ends.  To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the same ends.  It is essential that the people should come to regard them as their own ends.  Although the beliefs must be chosen for the people and imposed upon them, they must become their beliefs, a generally accepted creed which makes the individuals as far as possible act spontaneously in the way the planner wants….

“This is, of course, brought about by the various forms of propaganda.  Its technique is now so familiar that we need say little about it.  The only point that needs to be stressed is that neither propaganda in itself nor the techniques employed are peculiar to totalitarianism and that what so completely changes its nature and effect in a totalitarian state is that all propaganda serves the same goal—that all the instruments of propaganda are coordinated to influence the individuals in the same direction and to produce the characteristic Gleichschaltung of all minds….The skillful propagandist then has power to mold their minds in any direction he chooses, and even the most intelligent and independent people cannot entirely escape that influence if they are long isolated from all other sources of information” (Pages 171-172).

“Incredible as some of these aberrations may appear, we must yet be on our guard not to dismiss them as mere accidental by-products which have nothing to do with the essential character of a planned or totalitarian system.  They are not.  They are the direct result of that same desire to see everything directed by a “unitary conception of the whole,” of the need to uphold at all costs the views in the service of which people are asked to make constant sacrifices, and of the general idea that the knowledge and beliefs of the people are an instrument to be used for a single purpose.  Once science has to serve, not truth, but the interests of a class, a community, or a state, the sole task of argument and discussion is to vindicate and to spread still further the beliefs by which the whole life of the community is directed.  As the Nazi minister of justice has explained, the question which every new scientific theory must ask itself is:  “Do I serve National Socialism for the greatest benefit of all?” (Page 178)

We see that the person generally chosen as the leader of a collectivist society is often the one most willing to do what is necessary for popularity, including trading away what we may consider morals.  In order to get the society working for the cause it is necessary to propagandize, even deceive them.  This is in line with Plato’s observations in Republic and Europe’s history.  Does it occur in our society?  I believe that an unbiased investigation into climate science, especially Climategate would reveal this same trend.  (See chapter VI of the review of Quigley’s Tragedy & Hope for a more in-depth explanation.)

It is possible, then, to answer our final question.  Who ends up masters and slaves?  I believe collectivism begins with the desire to be masters.  If only society would work together for the great ideas that we have.  We could feed the hungry.  We could house the homeless.  These are noble goals, but when we desire to take from others their property or money or time or freedom to accomplish these goals, it becomes a desire to be master of society and have everyone else, who wouldn’t naturally do what we wanted, to be compelled or be our slaves, in accomplishing our vision of good.  Once the legal framework is accomplished for the collectivist society, we learn that our master plan for the whole is not universally accepted, and our less moral competition actually has the advantage in gaining power.  Over time, our money, which we used to donate to worthy causes like helping the poor, is being taken to bail out reckless banks or propagandize Global Warming, or fund wars or Planned Parenthood.  The politically connected class, closest to government policy, has the best chance of taking the most of our money.  Central Bankers and greedy industrialists gain in power, influence, and money, and where are we?  Our desire to be master has made us the slaves.

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