Friday, March 23, 2012

The Brutal Reality of Changing Everything

Don Boudreaux of Café Hayek HERE posts a short reminder of the 20th anniversary of Hayek’s death. He quotes from page 133 of Hayek’s last book, his 1988 The Fatal Conceit:

“Life exists only so long as it provides for its own continuance. Whatever men live for, today most live only because of the market order. We have become civilized by the increase of our numbers just as civilization made that increase possible: we can be few and savage, or many and civilized. If reduced to its population of ten thousand years ago, mankind could not preserve civilization. Indeed, even if knowledge already gained were preserved in libraries, men could make little use of it without numbers sufficient to fill the jobs demanded for extensive specialisation and division of labour.

Everybody should read Hayek at least once in their life – more often if possible, especially those who pontificate with breathless utopian naivety in favour of this or that complete change in the way the world is at present so that conforms to their particular irritation with whatever they agitate about, a.k.a. as “activism” or “occupying”.

Those who agitate in favour of a reduced population – or at least zero growth in it – for instance, should take note of Hayek’s assessment of the trade-off between the “few”, the norm before agriculture, and the “many”, the inescapable realities of commercial society.

Step forward the many billions already living who are perceived to be the ‘problem’, and be prepared to be eliminated somehow. This is an inevitable reality of the ‘there’s too many people’ living who are the targets of their activism. There are even more people likely to be living in the next fifty years and counting, which would require even more ambitious targets for culls in the post-growth nightmare that a strident few claim will be necessary.


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