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Main | Hurricane Sandy: How the Broken Window Fallacy Applies »

Hayek Explains Why Intellectuals Prefer Socialism

Why is it that intellectuals tend to prefer socialism over economic freedom?  It's a question with more than a few answers, but the most satisifying answer (at least for me) comes from Hayek in The Fatal Conceit. Intellectuals, says Hayek, prefer socialism because they overvalue intellengence.  Obama, for instance, believes he can rebuild the world in his image.  But like others on the left, Obama's judgement is clouded by his unwavering belief in himself.  This is the left's Fatal Conceit: instead of accepting the nature of man and the good (as well as the bad) of freedom, liberal arrogance enables a dangerous naivete where good intentions morph into ever more control from a power hungry state.

Here's how Hayek explained it:

The higher we climb up the ladder of intelligence, the more we talk with intellectuals, the more likely we are to encounter socialist convictions.  Rationalists tend to be intelligent and intellectual; and intelligent intellectuals tend to be socialists...

One's initial surprise in finding that intelligent people tend to be socialists diminishes when one realises that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilization offers to deliberate design rather than to following traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising our reason, elminate any remaining undesired features by still more intelligent reflection, and still more appropriate design and 'rational coordination' of our undertakings.  This leads one to be favorably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism.