The New Road to Serfdom: a Letter of Warning to America.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Orient, Jane M.
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Publisher: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. ISSN: 1543-4826
Issue: Date: Spring, 2012 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Hannan, Daniel
Accession Number: 293813007
Full Text: The New Road to Serfdom: a Letter of Warning to America, by Daniel Hannan, hardcover, 198 pp, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-06195693-5, New York, N.Y., HarperCollins, 2010.

This book is a plea by a British member of the European parliament to Americans not to follow the European path. Although he loves his own country, Hannan writes, "American self-belief is like a force of nature, awesome and inexorable. It turned a dream of liberty in to a functioning nation."

Hannan has a better concept of American history and the American form of government than many Americans do. He clearly understands the meaning of American exceptionalism and its importance for the welfare of the rest of the world.

Many Americans think it doesn't make any difference how they vote. In Europe, this is even truer. There is little that European politicians can change. There has been a comprehensive shift in power in the

European Union from elected representatives to permanent functionaries, from national parliaments to Eurocrats, from the citizens to the state.

Hannan states that Britain is now largely administered by Quangos: Quasiautonomous, non-governmental organizations. Quoting F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, he writes: "The delegation of particular technical tasks to separate bodies, while a regular feature, is yet the first step by which a democracy progressively relinquishes its powers."

An extremely important feature of America is open primary elections, Hannan writes. As long as these exist, a politician cannot afford to forget his electorate. Without an open primary, a government with a majority in the legislature can rule almost without constraint. Hannan draws a striking contrast between the U.S. Constitution, which is 7,200 words long, and the EU constitution, now formally known as the Lisbon Treaty, which is 76,000 words. The U.S. Constitution concerns itself with broad principles, such as the balance between state and federal authorities, whereas the EU constitution is concerned with all kinds of details. The U.S. Constitution is mainly about liberty of the individual, while the EU constitution is mainly about the power of the state.

American "progressives" almost always speak of "fragmentation" in a pejorative sense. But Hannan emphasizes the dangers of centralizing power. He refers to the 1981 book The European Miracle by Australian historian E.L. Jones to explain that Europe's success resided in the fact that it never became a unified state. Whereas Oriental empires became centralized, bureaucratized, and heavily taxed, Europe's princedoms were constantly competing with each other. Many European advances, he notes, were driven by the phenomenon of the refugee. "As long as there was somewhere to flee to, the power of the autocrat was checked. As long as there were competing states, no dictatorship would be secure/The concept of economies of scale doesn't necessarily apply. Hannan points out the inverse correlation between size and prosperity. The wealthiest people in the world tend to live in very small states.

One of my favorite features of the book is the commentary on the New Deal and "the most dangerous of political fallacies: The idea that, at a time of crisis, the government's response must be proportionate to the degree of public anxiety." Politicians in tone," Doing nothing is not an option!" Hannan asks whether that phrase is ever true. Hyperactivity is itself no solution. "Doing nothing is always an option, and often it is the best option." Don't copy Europe, Hannan says. Don't Europeanize healthcare, don't Europeanize welfare, don't Europeanize society, and don't Europeanize immigration.

In particular, Hannan warns the U.S. against imitating the mistakes of Britain: expanding government, regulating private commerce, centralizing jurisdiction, breaking the link between taxation and representation, and abandoning its sovereignty. He urges America to "honor the genius of your founders. Respect the most sublime constitution devised by human intelligence. Keep faith with the design that has made you independent. Preserve the freedom of the nation to which, by good fortune and God's grace, you are privileged to be long."

About Britain's National Health Service, Hannan states that Britain is about the last place in the industrialized world where you'd want to be diagnosed with cancer, stroke, or heart disease. Any criticism of the system is considered to be "insulting our hardworking doctors and nurses." This is true even though the employees of NHS stand to gain more than anyone else from ending a system that allows the state to ruthlessly exploit its position as a monopoly employer.

When politicians assume responsibility for healthcare, he notes, the course is almostirreversible, and opens taxpayers to unlimited liabilities. It is almost impossible to suggest any reform. While newspapers may frequently carry horror stories about what happens in hospitals, no one is allowed to suggest a connection between the outcomes and the system that produced them.

Hannan points to Singapore as the best example to follow. There, healthcare accounts for only 3.5 percent of GDP. Singaporeans are obliged to pay a percentage of their earnings into a dedicated account, a small component of which pays for catastrophic insurance. The insurance companies have a much reduced role, as most everyday needs are paid for out of the health savings account. Thus, physicians and medical facilities are encouraged to offer their services as cheaply as possible, and consumers find that thrift is rewarded.

Jane M. Orient, M.D.

Tucson, Ariz.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.