Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The real road to serfdom

By Marko Beljac - posted Monday, 5 January 2015

The contemporary order just about everywhere is oft justified with respect to neoliberal ideas, and so it is that we may frame a hypothesis; examination of the discord, should there be one, between neoliberal theory and practice informs us plenty regarding the nature of contemporary society.

As we know neoliberal ideas are presented as the natural intellectual heir of classical liberalism, especially so as neoliberalism places a strong emphasis upon a critique of the centralised power of the state.

It is said that state power militates against individual liberty and autonomy, and should always be tempered and countered by those whose hearts beat to a liberal drum.


Perhaps the most well known exposition of neoliberalism remains Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.

Hayek wrote in the late 1940s when state power in much of the Western world was being expanded in two important ways.

The first was through the development of social welfare states and the second through the development of the national security state most especially, and most crucially, in the United States.

In the neoliberal canon you will find much ire directed at the first, but little to none at the second. The difference exposes the role that neoliberal ideas play in our society, and the true centres of power that reside within them.

The difference is readily explainable; in the former the state helps the poor, in the latter the rich. When state action assists the poor it is trenchantly attacked by our erstwhile neoliberals but when aiding the rich it is quietly left aside if not readily applauded.

The social welfare state is, of course, associated with pensions, unemployment benefits, public health, public education, just about everything associated with the needs and concerns of most, especially the most underprivileged and disadvantaged, members of society.


The market left to its own devices, it was recognised, fosters inequality and class hierarchy and thereby an interventionist state was required to pull up those left by the wayside.

Hence it was that state power expanded through provision of welfare programmes and the adoption of labour market regulations.

The welfare state was also associated with Keynesian demand management of the economy geared toward the maintenance of full employment.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

16 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Mark Beljac teaches at Swinburne University of Technology, is a board member of the New International Bookshop, and is involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, National Tertiary Education Union, National Union of Workers (community) and Friends of the Earth.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Marko Beljac

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Marko Beljac
Article Tools
Comment 16 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy