Opinion: Serfdom: We have arrived

POSTED: 03/17/14 6:31 PM

Below, I’ll give some excerpts and interpretations of Friedrich von Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom”. We’ll see a direct reflection of how St. Maarten/St. Martin has already arrived. Now, a “Serf” is a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord or tyrannical state.

Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian economist living in Britain, wrote “The Road to Serfdom” in 1944 in which he “warned of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning “,and in which he argues that the abandonment of individualism and classical liberalism inevitably leads to a loss of freedom, the creation of an oppressive society, the tyranny of a dictator and the serfdom of the individual.

Government has taken us a long way down the Road to Serfdom. That doesn’t just mean that more of us must work for the government. It means that we are changing from independent, self-responsible people into a submissive flock of sheep. The welfare state kills the creative spirit and initiative.

Hayek meant that governments can’t plan economies without planning people’s lives. After all, an economy is just individuals engaging in exchanges. The scientific-sounding language such as collective responsibility, fair share, and the social justice of our government’s economic planning hides the fact that people must shelve their own plans in favor of government’s single plan.

At the beginning of “The Road to Serfdom,” Hayek acknowledges that mere material wealth is not all that’s at stake when the government controls our lives: “The most important change is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people in order to make them subservient Serfs.”

This shouldn’t be controversial. If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out with other people’s money, character will degenerate. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality by taking from the one who produces and giving to the one who does not produce, can’t help but make us dependent. That has changed the psychology of our society.

Hayek was one of the most prominent critics of socialist central planning, having helped demonstrate why government management of an entire economy was inherently unworkable, and could never “deliver the goods” as efficiently and effectively as competitive free market capitalism.

During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the early days of St. Maarten’s rapid growth and development- we were then an open and FREE market society- we also had very little or no red tape, low taxes, a small government and absolutely no free government handouts. Everyone worked, most people at that time were entrepreneurial, created their own little businesses to survive and feed their families. Today we hear government officials when speaking to school children, telling them, they should think about studying for jobs in the public sector. In other word, they should think about becoming workers and not job creators “entrepreneurs”

St. Maarten’s Road to Serfdom started in the mid 80’s when the élite intellectuals started migrating to St. Maarten from other failed Caribbean economies, bringing along with them, their failed economic ideologies that could not provide them with jobs and economic success in their own countries of birth. About 80% of our government and civil servants today are migrated intellectual élites.

The Heritage Foundation in partnership Wall Street Journal publishes a yearly index, ranking countries on their economic freedom.  Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.

The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom ranks the Caribbean from “Moderately Free” to “Mostly Unfree,” which simply means that they are not good countries and economies in which to work or  invest. With over 60% of our citizens either working for, or dependant on the state-we’re no longer slouching toward Serfdom. We have arrived.
Peter Gunn

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