Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fascism versus personal economic freedom: The Road to Serfdom

Sambriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation, has brought a translated version of The Road to Serfdom, an abridged version of the book written by the Austrian-born economist Friedrich von Hayek in 1943.
The translated version ‘Dashatwa ko Bato’ of the Reader’s Digest’s condensed version is an eye opener for the cadres of the political parties as it warns of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning, which is what the current government is doing.
The book written in 1940’s, is more relevant to the present day Nepal, where the incumbent government is slowly taking control of all the institutions abandoning individualism, liberal economic policy and freedom and moving towards fascist oppression and the serfdom of the individual similar to what the Panchayati rulers used to do before 1990.
The writer believes that the socialist democrats are similar to the communists in centralising power and planning empowering the state and weakening the personal freedom. The incumbent government and the ruling party though preaches on federalism and decentralisation, it has been slowly taking control of state affairs and making the Singhdurbar the only power centre.
The Road to Serfdom could also be a mirror of the current Nepali polity, where the government is trying to sell the idea of prosperity by centralised planning that will inevitably lead to totalitarianism. “Planning, because coercive, is an inferior method of regulation, while the cooperation of a free market is superior because it is the only method by which our activities can be adjusted to each other without coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority,” according to Hayek, who argues that the government intervention in markets would lead to a loss of freedom. The government can have a limited role to perform tasks of which free markets were not capable, he says.
Though, Hayek is opposed to regulations, which restrict the freedom to enter a trade, or to buy and sell at any price, or to control quantities, he acknowledges the limited role of the governments like preventing frauds and maintaining law and order and security of the investments.
The private sector in the country is currently asking the government to provide them the basic law and order and the security of their investment like the author. And if the government can ensure the basic law and order, the country can flourish economically. But the Dr Baburam Bhattarai-led government itself is the law breaker that has instilled uncertainty in the investors.
The book, first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944, during World War II, was republished in the US by the University of Chicago Press in September 1944 before Reader's Digest editor Max Eastman managed to publish the condensed version The Road to Serfdom in April 1945, which is translated in Nepali by Sambriddhi.
“The book will help government-obsessed Nepalis — who wants the government to do everything — think in a different way,” writes economist Dr Bhola Nath Chalise in the forward of the book that has also included the cartoons of the book that was published in the Look magazine, and is easy to understand the concept of the fascism and the death of personal freedom.
‘Dashatwa ko Bato’ is certain to generate heated debate not only because the last cartoon reminds a reader of the teacher Muktinath Adhikari of Lamjung, who was murdered by the incumbent government to show their fascist nature, but also it speaks volumes on economic and personal freedom, which the incumbent government might find uneasy.
The Road to Serfdom
Publisher: Sambriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation
Author: Friedrich von Hayek
Price: Rs 80


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