A little while ago, I did a short review of The Plan, a programme of political reform espoused by my good friend Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell. Dan is a member of the European Parliament and one of the leading thinkers on the right in the UK. The careful reasoning and refusal to be pigeon-holed make his excellent blog at the Daily Telegraph one that the left love to hate.
Last year, he wrote a short book called The New Road to Serfdom for the US market (although I understand a UK edition is due out soon). The book gets its title from Frederick Hayek’s classic warning about socialism The Road to Serfdom. Like Hayek, Dan warns that the road is paved with good intentions. As far as he is concerned, being left wing is an intellectual and not a moral failing (although it is worth noting that most people on the left think the opposite about conservatives).
The thrust of Dan’s book is that the US is exceptional in its wealth and the freedom of its citizens. The reason for this is to be found in a constitution that keeps power close to the people. Governments are not very good at doing much of what they do. So efficiency and liberty are both best served by decentralisation.
Over here in Europe, we live on the continent of big government. Not content in allowing the central governments of each country to horde power, we have also allowed a super-bureaucracy in Brussels to lord it over us without a modicum of democrat control. All bureaucracies end up looking out for their own interests, not those of the people they are meant to serve. Thus, in Europe, we are getting steadily less free and relatively less rich.
Across the Atlantic, Dan warns his US readers that their country is going the same way. Their leaders are taking power away from people and piling it up in Washington DC. This happens with the best of intentions, but the result is the same: the people become poorer both economically and socially.
What is remarkable about this book (which has done deservedly well in bookstores) is that Dan has managed to turn a difficult and counter-intuitive political argument into a short and enjoyable book that you can read in one sitting. It is ideal for a plane trip across the country that it describes. This is Dan’s genius as a political thinker – not only can he sees past all the cant and hypocrisy, he can help his readers see past it as well.
But not only Americans should read The New Road to Serfdom. As a defence of the American way, it is all the more convincing coming from a Brit. Dan attacks the knee-jerk anti-Americanism of many Europeans and exposes it as ill-informed bigotry. And when you have finished the book, his blog is well worth your time as well, especially if you like Shakespeare.
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