Like the socialist, he [the conservative] is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.
DBx: The conservative that Hayek here rightly criticizes is not the American conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan or George Will. As Hayek himself notes at the beginning of his Postscript, because the American founding was rooted in liberalism, Americans à la William Buckley and George Will who call themselves “conservative” because they wish to conserve the principles of America’s founding are really liberal (in the classic, correct sense). The conservative that Hayek here rightly criticizes is one that historically was much more common in Europe than in America.
Unfortunately, this European-style true conservativism is now staging an invasion of America. Its generals today include Sohrab Ahmari, Oren Cass, Patrick Deneen, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, and Adrian Vermeule. While the particulars of each of these and other true-conservatives’ programs differ from each other, every one of these conservatives rejects the liberal willingness to allow individuals to pursue whatever peaceful ends they choose. These true conservatives unapologetically propose using the power of the state to compel adherence to their particular values.
As Stephanie Slade said in her recent, excellent discussion with Juliette Sellgren, this embrace by conservatives of state power is “terrifying.”
F.A. Hayek – one of history’s most articulate, insightful, and principled liberals – was born on this date in 1899.