28 November 2006
What if tyranny worked?

I was having a chat with some of my libertarian friends at the LA conference over the weekend.  We were talking about Hayek and he said something along the lines of: “There’s always the suspicion with him that if socialism was any good at producing fridges and washing machines he would be a socialist.”  The implication being that Hayek was wrong.  (And, indeed, that that was what he believed).

I didn’t say so at the time (because my brain works far too slowly) but it occurs to me now that if tyranny was capable of producing the good things in life wouldn’t you have to support it?  Because, even if you wanted to live in your wonderfully-free-but-poor part of the world you wouldn’t get the chance.  If a tyranny is capable of churning out the fridges and washing machines you can sure as hell bet that it can churn out the tanks and fighter jets.

And it would just invade you.  Bye, bye freedom.

Luckily this is not a conclusion I often have to draw.  Usually, or so it seems to me, freedom and prosperity (in all its forms) go together.  Indeed, almost every argument I make on InstaPatrick includes both a moral case and a practical case.

But what if the practical case is far from clear cut? - intellectual property and compulsory purchase - are a couple of examples that spring to mind.  What if in these cases freedom was objectively worse than compulsion?  I think even then I would support freedom partly because it works in so many other areas of life that we can afford to induldge it once in a while and partly because once you’ve started to let a little bit of coercion into the world you find that more follows.

But it’s worth bearing in mind.

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