Filantroper, filosoffer og det frie marked II

Vi omtalte fornylig James Pieresons artikel "Investing in Conservative Ideas" i Commentary om den langsigtede betydning det havde haft for den amerikanske idédebat, at nogle dele af amerikansk erhvervsliv tog en chance og støttede mere ideologiske projekter. Nu har manden en ny artikel, nemlig en kronik, "Investing in the Right Ideas", i Wall Street Journal, hvori han behandler samme emne.

Det kan være værd at bemærke, hvor stor betydning Piereson tillægger én eneste bog:

"The seminal influence on these funders was F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," published in London in 1944 and in the U.S. the following year. This slender volume, an articulate call to battle against socialism, turned its author, then an obscure professor at the London School of Economics, into an enduring hero among conservatives and classical liberals on both sides of the Atlantic. No other writer at the time had made the case against collectivist ideas and policies with such audacity and clarity. For this reason alone, "The Road to Serfdom" quickly became a reference point for those with misgivings about the expanding welfare state. Named in many surveys as one of the most influential books of the 20th century, "The Road to Serfdom" caused something of a sensation when first published, provoking reviews and comment from such leading figures as John Maynard Keynes and George Orwell, and scathing rebukes and rebuttals from scores of lesser lights. A condensed version, brought out in 1945 by Reader's Digest, reached over two million of the magazine's subscribers and aroused enough interest to bring Hayek to the U.S. for a national lecture tour.

"The Road to Serfdom" advanced two broad themes, one negative and the other positive. The first was that socialism leads almost inevitably to tyranny and the loss of liberty in all of its forms. The second was that the antidote to socialism is to be found in the revival of classical liberalism as articulated by British-Enlightenment thinkers like Adam Smith, David Hume and Edmund Burke. The book was in some ways highly pessimistic, for socialism was advancing everywhere and appeared irresistible. (As if to confirm Hayek's analysis, England's 1945 parliamentary election saw the Labour Party winning on a platform that called explicitly for the nationalization of British industry, and the victorious party proceeded to make good on its promise.) At the same time, Hayek saw a way out through the revival of a tradition of thought that was in the process of being lost.

As for present-day conservatism, in Hayek's view it suffered from a fatal weakness. Because it relied on tradition rather than principle, it could slow down or resist but never fundamentally alter the direction in which events were moving."

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