An Exile in Trumplandia and The Road to Serfdom

Illiberal.

That one word, expresses my primary fear about President Donald J Trump. Yesterday I posted An Exile in Trumplandia Discovers Twitter which I hope partially illustrates our president’s response to some of the institutional pushback he is seeing. When I use the word “liberal”, I am not using the word to mean government control, as “liberal” has come to mean in typical usage in the political arena in the United States. My usage of the word liberal indicates a belief that the individual is of great worth as a human being. Because each individual human being is created in the image of God, each individual person is owed respect and dignity consistent with the image of God each person carries. No other way people may choose to categorize and subdivide themselves is more important than the simple fact that they are human and created in the image of God. Race, ethnicity, gender, income level, or any other categorization that people place on themselves is not as important as humanity qua humanity. Liberalism, properly understood, places a great importance on the individual. However, individualism need not be confused with selfish sinful behavior as is sometimes proclaimed from the pulpit. There is no reason to associate a proper individualism with individual sin. People sin in liberal democracies, illiberal democracies, democratic socialism, Communist regimes, or any other political structure we have devised. To blame individual human sin on a political system is to deny the root cause of humanity’s problems – our sinful hearts. When I say I believe President Trump is illiberal I am not paying him a compliment. I do not believe that President Trump has a high enough view of individual people – that he does not accord sufficient respect and dignity to groups (people who are not United States citizens–and some who are) of people. I am saying that his presidency has the potential to push the United States and western democracy in the direction most of us do not want to go.

In 1944, Friedrich von Hayek, published The Road to Serfdom. Based on Hayek’s observations on the European continent in the previous decades, The Road to Serfdom gave warning that the Socialist road Western democracies were taking would ultimately be the road to totalitarianism. The book was very popular and Hayek’s predictions did not come true.  Hayek’s predictions at least partially were not fulfilled because Western citizens heeded his warnings.

The first chapter in the book is titled “The Abandoned Road”. At the time, because of policy based on separating people into economic categories or classes (socialism) Hayek observed a major unintended consequence of socialism.

How sharp a break not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization the modern trend towards socialism means becomes clear if we consider it not merely against the background of the nineteenth century but in a longer historical perspective. We are rapidly abandoning not the views merely of Cobden and Bright, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke and Milton, but one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization as it has been grown from foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans. Not merely nineteenth– and eighteenth-century liberalism, but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides, is progressively relinquished. (emphasis added)

Hayek warned about socialism driving Western civilization down the road to serfdom–toward an authoritarian led totalitarian political economic system. Socialism divides and separates people according to economic class. People in the wealthier class are not provided with the dignity and respect with which creation in the image of God demands. In socialism, government takes from the rich to give to the poor. Political fascism divides people along religious, racial, and ethnic lines to lay the foundation for some of humanity’s greatest crimes against humanity. President Trump divides us according to nationality. The dividing lines are political. Economics is always inextricably linked to politics, but the base dividing line in Trumplandia is political. I shudder to think what might happen with our sharpened nationalism.

While much of what we talk about with respect to President Trump will necessarily relate to policy, ultimately my concerns go beyond policy. I will agree with some of President Trump’s economic (and other) policies. My Trumplandia policy concerns are manifest in immigration and trade. But the root of the concerns are based in the shift away from a properly understood liberal individualism that respects individual people as being created in the image of God.

6 thoughts on “An Exile in Trumplandia and The Road to Serfdom”

  1. I can’t help but wonder if this seemingly over the top nationalism coming from Trump is little more than a stark contrast to the previous eight years. I need not, but I will, remind the audience of the steep change that occurred under Obama. Under his administration, the United States seemed to lose a good deal of its identity in trying to become so much like everybody else and trying to “diversify.” While I have no problems with diversity, this does not preclude patriotism and support for one’s country, which I think we saw a lack of under Obama’s tenure. Trump’s comments really do not worry me that much, to be honest. He is proud of his country, and he is willing to say so. Whether this kickback to patriotism is troubling or refreshing is left to be determined, but I would argue that right now the shock value is simply due to a virtual absence of it over the past few years.

  2. I am trying to think, but other than his first order – which some claim just so happen to be predominantly Muslim countries – he has not targeted specific groups in his first few weeks as President. Other than this executive order, how has Trump categorized people based on nationality?

  3. Good article that brings up some interesting points about the meaning of liberalism in relation to having worth as a human being. Having been created imago dei is what separates us from all other life and means that we should have a level of respect and dignity being recognized by our leaders. This is not to say that Trump is ignoring these things, as some of his policies I do agree with. Rather, he should probably be making a greater effort to unify us before we are any further separated as a nation.

  4. I concur that people are created in the image of God, however, people do not generally behave in the image of God. Your other posts indicate you believe in open borders. I love your heart, but I fear the consequences. Terrorism is a small problem in the US, however if we bring in large numbers of immigrants we will also be bringing their problems. Suicide bombers are a rare problem here, but more common in the Middle East and a growing problem in Europe. I think many people believe everyone shares their “reasonable” beliefs, but people can be mistaken about the reasonableness of their beliefs. I believe the vote indicates people are concerned about their security and their jobs that is their economic security. “Build the wall” was very popular with people who are concerned about people accepting lower pay and further burdening our public services including schools and healthcare. Boston marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando indicate their are indeed radicals who want to kill us. While many more people die in automobile accidents, how many deaths by terrorists are tolerable for you? Can’t we fulfill our Christian obligation by helping people where they live. Why is the only solution bring them here? I think the mistake we made in the past eight years was deciding which foriegn leaders needed to go. Obama and Hillary lit the fire in Lybia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria. Iraq was Bush’s fault but Obama made that worse by withdrawing and leaving our weapons for ISIS. If we bring in millions of Muslims we bring in some number who oppress women and children and non-muslims and execute LGBT. Vetting will never be perfect, but I can tolerate a pause to consider the risks.

    1. Hi Gary,
      Supporting open borders does not mean that we allow individuals who have any hint of criminality or certain diseases into the country. I am in favor a vetting immigrants. I do not believe that the United States should allow “just anyone” into the country – but people who want to be productive should be allowed to enter our nation. Further, supporting open borders does not mean that I think criminals from other nations should be allowed to remain in our country. Open borders does mean that we do not artificially restrict people who want to come into our nation to work and make a better life for themselves. The government should not manage the labor market anymore than the government should manage any other market. It is appropriate for the government to set “the rules of the game” (vetting) but not to play the game to manage the economic outcome.

Comments are closed.