Individualism and Neo-liberalism
I’m currently reading a history of neo-liberalism, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics by Daniel Stedman Jones. It’s turning out to be quite interesting. Here is a quote from Hayek:
The virtues these people possessed – 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, non-interference with one’s neighbour and tolerance of the different and the queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority. Almost all the traditions and institutions in which democratic moral genius had found its most characteristic expression, and which in turn have moulded the national character and the whole moral climate of England and America, are those which the progress of collectivism and its inherently centralistic tendencies are progressively destroying.
As an individualist and a supporter of democracy who lately has been feeling very uncomfortable with the concessions that liberals have been making to their radical leftists allies lately, I find this statement very appealing. It is a shame that the supporter of this view, in order to implement their economic agenda, made an alliance with the cultural reactionaries. (I was going to call them conservatives, but they don’t want to slow down the rate of change as much as they are reacting against changes that have already occurred and would like to implement a program to bring about a cultural purity that never existed.) As an atheist and a great many other things that these advocates of cultural purification would see stamped out of existence, I am almost forced to side with the far left. It is quite frustrating for me because I entirely agree with the anti-totalitarian point Hayek is making and I can easily see the authoritarian impulses on the left.
There is a great irony that the direct political heirs to Hayek have aligned themselves with Christian reactionaries who are also clearly authoritarian.
I sometimes find myself wondering if the anti-totalitarian left and the anti-totalitarian right can find enough common ground to cooperate because the far left has been going in a direction that I may not be able to keep company with them any more.
The mob justice on social media has been of particular concern to me.