F. A. Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom in 1943. It was published in 1944. Americans who read the 1945 Readers Digest version liked it. University professors didn’t. This is one more bit of evidence that American voters have more sense than university professors. Are you surprised?
When Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom, he had a marketing problem. The book’s title was absurd. He knew that. He knew the difference between Western serfdom, which had limited but defined property rights and the rule of law, and socialism, which in theory had neither. Serfdom was a system of liberty compared to Communism, Fascism, and National Socialism. But he was trying to sell the book to educated Leftists, who were favorable to socialism. He could not very well have sold copies in 1944 based on a title like The Road to Fascism, which was in fact the road the West was on in 1944.
We have been on the road out of “serfdom” ever since 1947, the year after Truman removed wartime price and wage controls. Anyone who doubts this development has no awareness of the lack of influence that free market ideas had in 1945. It was worse on campus, but it was bad in general. Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson was a breath of fresh intellectual air in 1946. He was alone among financial journalists in 1946.
He would not be alone today.
FEDERAL TAX REVENUES AND LIBERTY
I ran a chart on federal tax revenues as a percentage of GDP. Go back and refresh your memory. http://www.garynorth.com/public/9539.cfm
There was a reason why I ran it. I wanted to drive home a point: the federal government is no deeper into our pockets than it was in 1947.
Think about this.
I got into the conservative movement in 1956. That was the year that Dwight Eisenhower was reelected President. I think most people like to think of those days as the good old days. Certainly, the popular television show Happy Days was premised on nostalgia for that era. But the reality is this: in terms of taxes collected by the federal government, the good old days were no better than today. With the top tax income rate at 91%, it was a lot worse. It was confiscatory.
What we forget is the enormous increase of productivity that the world has lived through since 1947. The output of American workers has risen steadily because of innovation, capital formation, and the greater wealth of our trading partners. As the rest of the world has gotten rich in the postwar era, everyone has prospered. When our neighbors get richer, we get richer. This includes our neighbors who live 10,000 miles away. This tremendous increase of productivity has enabled us to pay our taxes to the federal government and still enjoy an enormously increased standard of living.
When we think of the automobiles that Americans drove in 1946, or when I think of the 1952 automobile that I drove in 1958, there is no comparison. The cars today are safer, get far better mileage, are more stylish, handle better, and last longer. While a man my age looks back nostalgically at a 1955 Chevy hardtop convertible, he would not want to have to drive one on a regular basis.
The dream cars of 1955 had more to do with fantasies about the dream girls of 1955 than they did with transportation.
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