Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Virtues Required for Freedom

I'm not in general a fan of Friedrich Hayek. I think he surrenders far too much to Progressives. But he had some things of value to say. In particular, this gem from The Road to Serfdom:
There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.
The cultural decay represented by the withering of those virtues is almost as true of America today as it was of Britain in the 1950s. (That latter makes it all the more remarkable that Hayek saw this in 1944.)

We won't come back unless those virtues again become dominant and are as celebrated as they were a hundred years ago.

Still, I'm not completely pessimistic. If anyone can restore them to popularity, it would be the American people. After all, Progressives may currently dominate all but two of the major cultural transmission belts, but are in fact a small percentage of the population. So was the aristocracy of Britain (and their sycophants) in the 18th century and we managed to rid ourselves of them. Maybe we'll do so again with the current crop who believe themselves anointed to rule us.


Tim Johnston said...

Some encouraging words there!

thanks, Jeff.

Prometheus said...

What are the major cultural transmission belts?

Jeff Perren said...

I had in mind, in no particular order: newspapers/magazines, TV/films, high schools/universities, Internet news sites/blogs, talk radio.