Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hey Friedrich, Serf's Up!

Since Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, about how economic planning inevitably leads to tyranny, is one of the many titles on my list of books-that-sound-somewhat-interesting-but-that-frankly-I-am-never-going-to-get-around-to-actually-reading, I was pleased to see that Andrew Sullivan has provided this link to a cartoon version of the book that takes no more than five minutes to read.

If, like me, you are interested in industrial-era propaganda (the cartoons were originally printed back in the forties in Look magazine, then distributed in a booklet published by General Motors), you'll find the link worth a look. I have two observations:

1. Despite the fact that libertarians to this day cite The Road to Serfdom as an uncannily accurate prophecy of modern political developments, it's interesting to note that (assuming the cartoon version is accurate) virtually nothing predicted in the book has ever come to pass. (Did American liberals, despairing over the failure of their economic planning, ever try to hand over political power to a dictator? Did the New Deal give rise to a country ruled by secret police who execute people for incompetence at work? Somehow I missed those episodes.)

2. On the other hand, the creators of the cartoon booklet were remarkably prescient in one respect. Check out panel 16 from the 18-panel story, and in particular focus on the slogan posted on the wall at left:

The accuracy of this prediction about the propaganda of the future is all the more amazing when you consider that Thomas Friedman wasn't even born at the time!

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