Some of the world’s most important ideas were born and perfected within the confines of the Athenian agora including, famously, the concept of democracy.Regular Athenian citizens had the power to vote for anything and everything, and were fiercely proud of their democratic ways. No citizen was above the law – laws were posted in the agora for all to see – or was exempt from being a part of the legal process. In fact, Athenians considered it a duty and a privilege to serve on juries. Both the city law courts and senate were located in the agora to demonstrate the open, egalitarian nature of Athenian life.The Athenian democratic process, whereby issues were discussed in a forum and then voted on, is the basis for most modern systems of governance.


When the course of civilization takes an unexpected turn-when instead of the continuous progress which we have come to expect, we find ourselves threatened by evils associated with past ages of barbarism-we naturally blame anything but ourselves. ~ F.A. Hayek 

Sadly, we do not learn from history. F.A. Hayek wrote an extraordinary book, The Road to Serfdom, in the 1940’s about man’s willingness to give up freedom. . He lived through the times leading up to the dictatorships in Italy and the Fuhrer, Hitler. What he wrote then about the road to serfdom is taking place, again. Now. First in Europe, but attempts to take away personal freedom of choice are taking place in America and Canada. He bases his argument on economic freedom and its loss through socialism. Sound familiar?

He wrote “Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite we have been striving for?”

How about this?

“It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced, now-independence, self-reliance and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary co-operation  with one’s neighbors-and essentially those on which the working of an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it has destroyed them it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and compulsion of the individual to do what is collectively decided to be good.

I have often wondered who decides what is the greatest good? And who defines this “greatest good”?

Of whom does this remind you?

“The left intelligentsia, indeed, have so long worshiped foreign gods that they seem to have become almost incapable of seeing any good in the characteristic English institutions and traditions. That the moral values on which most of them pride themselves are largely the product of institutions they are out to destroy, these socialists cannot, of course, admit.”

And this?

“Not by shameful apologies…shall we win confidence and support.”

I am reminded of Barack Obama.

At the core of Obama’s message is the concept that the U.S. is a flawed nation that must seek redemption by apologizing for its past “sins.” President Obama sought to apologize for the actions of his own country when addressing  foreign audiences –about 3 billion people.

Hayek’s lesson from the War.

“What the German and the Italian who have learned the lesson want above all is protection against the monster state-not grandiose schemes for organization on colossal scale but opportunity peacefully and in freedom to build upon once more their own little worlds.”   And “In a small community common views on the relative importance of the main tasks, agreed standards of values, will exist on a great many subjects. But their number will become less and less the wider we throw the net; and as there is less community of views, the necessity to rely on force and coercion increases.”

Echoes of what is happening in Italy, today?

The result of the election in Italy was “met with alarm by European leaders who feared that big wins for Italy’s anti-establishment parties would spell further trouble for a continent already struggling to cope with the destabilizing rise of populist and far-right movements in France, Germany and elsewhere.”

But this is my favourite from Hayek.

“But one has only to visualize the problems raised by economic planning of even an area of Western Europe to see the moral bases for such an undertaking are completely lacking. Who imagines that there exist common ideas of distributive justice such as will make the Norwegian fisherman consent to forgo the prospect of economic improvement in order to help his Portuguese fellow or Dutch worker to pay more for his bicycle to help the Coventry mechanic or the French peasant to pay more taxes to assist the industrialization of Italy.

And here we are in the 21st century with the  G7, EU. And Brexit.

I was in Britain last year and spoke to people who owned small businesses and asked them about Brexit. They wanted out because of the rules that were drowning them.

I have lost track of the number of times I have said and written free will is learned and fear is a default position. It is in our genes: fear of the other, of change of difference,kept our ancestors alive.  And fear leaves us wishing we could go back to mommy, back to the womb, back to the garden where someone will take care of us. Dictators know this. And count on it. And slowly they tease us with promises to take care of us-from cradle to grave. And before you know it you have lost all your freedom. These are the policies of “liberal” parties all over the world. Cradle to grave care-for free!

And who are the people who do well in these systems?

The leaders who have no connection whatsoever to the people at the very bottom. And this is a major problem in a democracy. When Socrates stood on the Agora and each citizen had a vote  by raising a hand we had democracy. Now we give up our individual wants and needs to a representative-with whom we may or may not agree. And that connection is diluting as we give up our power to people who are farther and farther away from our lives.

In America, it was Barack Obama who tried to subsume the American people to a world-wide government.

“And we can only realize the promise of this institution’s founding ( The UN) — to replace the ravages of war with cooperation — if powerful nations like my own accept constraints. Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security. And I think that’s not just true for us.”

In Europe, the 27 countries are ruled by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, along with the other five Brussels bureaucrats, and Angela Merkel who ordered countries to take in refugees

As Hayek  wrote almost 80 years ago: The more power taken away from the individual by the state, the greater the possibility of the death of democracy.

“Planning on an international scale, even more than is true on a national scale, cannot be anything but a naked rule of force, an imposition by a small group on all the rest of that sort of standard and employment which planners think suitable for the rest.”

Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense.~ Richard Dawkins

John Lennon’s Imagine is just that: Imagination and wishful thinking.

Whether it is giving power to the EU, the G7 or the UN, in the name of peace, love or altruism, we ultimately give away our personal freedoms and then democracy.


From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”