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It’s common for presidential candidates at some point in their campaigns, to indicate who they would like to appoint to various positions in their hoped-for administrations. Recently, Rand Paul, aspiring to the 2016 nomination of the Tea Bag Republican Party, announced that he would like to appoint Friedrich A. Hayek to head the Federal Reserve Board.

hayek and rand paul

When the interviewer pointed out to Rand Paul that Hayek died more than 20 years ago (something Paul apparently didn’t know), he claimed that Hayek would then be an even better Fed chairman, since the Fed would not do anything, under a dead chairman.

Rand Paul’s embrace of Hayek illuminates Paul’s philosophy. His campaign has recently been troubled by his embrace of an outspoken white supremacist. Paul now claims that he is the most racially sensitive politician in America–though he knows that all “the coloreds” are too dumb or bigoted to realize that about him. Hayek’s economic theories help distract attention from Rand Paul’s following in his father’s footsteps on race issues.

Hayek is a god to Tea Baggers and “libertarians.” He is often portrayed as the oracle of free-market, “libertarian” economics. Ending government controls, according to his acolytes, is an automatic ticket to fortune for (almost) everyone.

Oddly, one of the things that his worshippers rarely mention is that Hayek adored Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship. Under that brutal regime, slave labor was used for private enterprise, and government regulations, military forces, and secret police were used to stifle competition and destroy all efforts by workers to improve their lot. Torture and murder were routine practices to keep the regime’s corporate backers profitable. For Hayek, the regime’s profitability overcame any concern about the human rights horrors.

Rand Paul has yet to be asked if he shares Hayek’s love of Pinochet style “freedom”. He should be asked, on the campaign trail. And he should be asked if he would support a Pinochet style coup in the U.S. if his goal of Hayek style economics doesn’t get enacted by the representatives of the voters.

Paul and other Hayek worshippers say that his economic theories will provide “liberty” and “freedom.” But they are uniformly hesitant to discuss exactly how that might happen or what those particular terms mean to them. Hayek was not so hesitant. He wrote books and set out his views clearly. People who prattle on about what Hayek meant might benefit themselves if they actually read what Hayek said.

In his book, The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek devotes chapter 11 to “the origins of the rule of law,” in which he lays out his views of economic history. He looks back to ancient Greece. He finds that while Plato lived, Athens suffered what he calls a “degenerate democracy.” He found no fault with ancient Greece’s use of slaves to till the fields and make the amphorae that held the wine stamped out of grapes by slave feet.

Hayek lamented that this classical period was swept away by emperors like Constantine and Justinian, who inflicted the evil “principle of equity” on the population, and ended “the freedom of the individual.” He simply ignores the fact that Rome’s empire was built on the labor of slaves, captured in imperial conquests on other societies, and on the vast stores of loot brought to Rome from conquered lands. And Hayek doesn’t mention the constant use of government military forces to put down regular slave revolts and even revolts by non-slaves, outraged by the corruption and favoritism of Rome’s government.

Hayek’s definition of “freedom of the individual” simply didn’t consider the slaves or the lowest rungs of society to be “individuals” falling within the definition. Hayek carried these beliefs into his recitation of English history. For Hayek, the religious wars of the 16th and 17th century never happened. All the strife in that period was, for Hayek, merely between those who wanted absolute royal authority and those who wanted Parliaments of wealthy landowners and merchants to make the laws that the king would enforce.

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For Hayek, England’s golden age of prosperity had nothing to do with its imperial expansion and colonization of Africa, India, China, or the Americas, in Hayek’s telling. On page 172 of his chapter on the rule of law, Hayek acknowledged that, “it is probably true that, from the point of view of the poorest, the idea of equality before the law remain a somewhat doubtful fact.” And Hayek saw greater involvement of the poor in parliamentary rule as destructive of freedom. For him, allowing the masses into their own governance was analogous to the “degenerate democracy of Plato’s time.”

But Hayek was insistent on the need for laws and regulations. His concern was that such laws and regulation emanate from, and serve the interests of the ‘individuals’ whose wealth and social position entitled them to “freedom”. For Hayek, “freedom” was something to which only those of certain wealth and status were entitled. Hayek firmly believed that slavery was a reasonable basis for society, whether in ancient Greece, or classical Rome, or in the English colonies that provided the wealth for the British empire.

There is no indication that Hayek supported the specifically American form of race-based slavery. His writings praise societies in history in which people of all races were entitled to be slaves, to help the higher social classes enjoy freedom. If this is the economic view that Rand Paul espouses, as he says that he does, then he may be honest when he says he is not a racist he simply believes in slavery for the lower classes, without regard to race.

Hayek’s support of slavery came in the context of broader views of government’s role in society. While supporting the Roman and English models of using the military and police to enforce the freedom of the upper classes to oppress lower classes and slaves, Hayek also praises Pericles’ programs in ancient Greece to have government subsidize wages to keep the lowest classes in some comfort and to provide free entertainments to the poor.

How often has Rand Paul proclaimed that he wants to follow Pericles’ example of widespread public welfare, as Hayek said was proper? How often has the press asked Rand Paul to address such issues?

For years, the press hasn’t been doing its job of elucidating candidates’ positions on much more than ‘talking points’. For decades before he decided to run for president, Ron Paul published extreme racist screeds in his regular political newsletters. As soon as he realized what huge profits he could reap from presidential campaigns, he cleaned up his newsletters, and started pretending that he never knew about their previous content.

As a chip off the old block, in his early political years, Rand Paul eagerly embraced overt racist supporters, and voted against equal rights every chance he got. He proudly proclaimed his opposition the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. But as soon as he decided to get on the presidential campaign gravy train, he also started to deny his earlier history. Like father, like son.

Regardless of whether Rand Paul is as much an East Texas racist cracker as his old man is, both father and son worship at the temple of Friedrich Hayek. And Hayek was committed to the idea that the lowest in society should not even be considered when setting economic policy. To Hayek and his followers, those who till the fields and work in factories are “takers” taking profits that (they believe) rightfully belong to those who own the plantations and factories, the “producers”.

Yes, this stands normal, common sense definitions on their head. But it is the core of the philosophy developed by Hayek, his teachers and his students, and written into the barely readable ‘novels’ of Ayn Rand. It is a philosophy that simply writes a major portion of society out of the governing process, as effectively as we used to keep women and non-whites out. It is the philosophy behind all the current voter suppression laws. And it is a philosophy on which the press should be more closely examining Rand Paul, and every Tea Bag Republican candidate.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall

Saturday, 17 August 2013