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Why the Worst Get on Top -- in Economics and as CEOs

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Here is von Hayek's explanation of the three reasons why democracy is inherently perverse.

"There are three main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogenous views is not likely to formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. By our accepted moral standards, the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.

In the first instance, it is probably true that the higher education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values.

It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and "common" instincts and tastes prevail.

This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards.

It is, as it were, the lowest common denominator which unites the largest number of a numerous group is needed, strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated and developed tastes it will be those who form the "mass" in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals.

If, however, a potential dictator had to rely entirely on those whose uncomplicated and primitive instincts happen to be very similar, their number would scarcely give sufficient weight to their endeavors. He will have to increase their numbers by converting more to the same simple creed.

Here comes in the second negative principle of selection: he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.

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It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.

It is in connection with the deliberate effort of the skillful demagogue to weld together a closely coherent and homogeneous body of supporters that the third and perhaps most important negative element of selection enters.

It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program -- on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off than on any positive task."

Yes, you read that correctly: democratic government invariably leads to the rule by "demagogues" who manipulate the most immoral segments of society. The core of this immoral coalition consists of "the lowest common denominator" -- the "'mass[es]' in the derogatory sense of the term." The masses consist of the least "educated" and least "intelligent" driven by "primitive instincts."

The unethical leaders add to this core the "docile and gullible." They are easily manipulated by propaganda that creates "a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently." Their "passions and emotions are readily aroused" by demagogues "who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party."

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The third component of the totalitarian troika is the "most important negative element." These are the murderous bigots motivated by "hatred of an enemy " the envy of those better off."

Von Hayek is Blighted by his Bigotry

What we are reading, of course, is the class hatred and bigotry common to minor Austrian aristocrats like von Hayek who were born in the 19th century. (The "von" was removed from all Austrian family names by statute when he was a young adult.) The idea of democratic rule by what he viewed as his inferiors appalled von Hayek. The fact that this kind of naked bigotry in this passage that I have quoted at length is viewed by his libertarian devotees as von Hayek's finest work reveals the depths of libertarian hate for and fear of democratic government.

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http://neweconomicperspectives.org/
William K Black , J.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Bill Black has testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee on the regulation of financial derivatives and House (more...)
 

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