October 12th, 2003

magikist

A couple of thoughts for a Sunday evening

From F. A. Hayek:

In government, the scum rises to the top.

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.

Liberty is an opportunity for doing good, but this is only so when it is also an opportunity for doing wrong.

All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest.

...the argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.

Equality of the general rules of law and conduct, however, is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty and the only equality which we can secure without destroying liberty. Not only has liberty nothing to do with any other sort of equality, but it is even bound to produce inequality in many respects. This is the necessary result and part of the justification of individual liberty: if the result of individual liberty did not demonstrate that some manners of living are more successful than others, much of the case for it would vanish.

However human, envy is certainly not one of the sources of discontent that a free society can eliminate. It is probably one of the essential conditions for the preservation of such a society that we do not countenance envy, not sanction its demands by camouflaging it as social justice, but treat it, in the words of John Stuart Mill, as “the most anti-social and evil of all passions.”

...it is always from a minority acting in ways different from what the majority would prescribe that the majority in the end learns to do better.

What a free society offers to the individual is much more than what he would be able to do if only he were free.

Human reason can neither predict nor deliberately shape its own future. Its advances consist in finding out where it has been wrong.

...if we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.

...the ultimate decision about what is accepted as right and wrong will be made not by individual human wisdom but by the disappearance of the groups that have adhered to the "wrong" beliefs.

From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

(With thanks to John Petrie.)