In chapter ten of The Road to Serfdom, “Why the Worst Get on Top,” Hayek continues to warn about the dangers of planned economies, but with a slightly different approach from earlier chapters.
Stepping into new territory, here we see Hayek not only identifying economic problems but also discussing the very nature of power itself. Specifically, he addresses how totalitarians are able to rise to power and coerce entire populations into absolute despotism.
What is so fascinating about Hayek’s warnings in this chapter is the fact that they were written at a time when the world was desperately trying to make sense of what had just occurred in Germany during WWII. Hitler and the Third Reich were all too fresh in the minds of all mankind, making Hayek’s warnings extraordinarily relevant.
History’s most notorious dictators did not rise to power randomly.
The world was determined to never let that kind of evil loose on civilization again, but as Hayek warned, it is not merely a matter of making sure “good” people get elected to office; it is making sure totalitarianism is rejected at all corners: economic, political, social and all other forms imaginable.
Three Reasons Why
History’s most notorious dictators did not rise to power randomly. And in this chapter of his book, Hayek explains why the most despicable people always end up with political power and why, to paraphrase Lord Acton, absolute power always corrupts absolutely.
There are three main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogeneous views is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. By our standards the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.
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