I was asked a curious question the other evening, about how it is possible for someone to be a hard-core Stalinist socialist one day, and then a hard-core Austrian anarcho-capitalist the next.
Well, it’s very rarely an overnight thing. However, there are cases where such people have been instantly transformed simply by reading Human Action, understanding the reasoning behind the Socialism Cannot Calculate argument, and then instantly flipping straight across to full anarcho-capitalism. But this didn’t happen for me (alas).
Instead, it was a decade-long road of mistakes, false trails, cul-de-sacs, and finally waking up one day and realising that government is not only unnecessary, it is positively a cancer which should be eradicated.
There’s two other things to understand, too. First of all, very few people change their political stripes once they have reached the end of puberty, because of chemicals released by the body during this period which ‘freeze’ certain parts of the brain. For instance, if you learn a foreign tongue before the age of 12, it is likely you will speak it like a native and have no accent. If you learn a foreign tongue after the age of 18, it is highly likely you will always keep an accent.
But we’re not after most people. A twenty-year-old who is a committed socialist is almost certainly a lost cause, and not worth the candle. They may come across of their own accord, but that’s entirely down to them. I’m certainly not going to lift a finger to help these cretins, as the energy they soak up is just too high. If they’re intelligent enough, they’ll eventually work it out for themselves.
What we are after, however, are those uncommitted people who just want to see a better world. We have to rescue them before they are sucked into the socialist maw by constantly deriding and laughing at the stupidities of socialism, and pointing out a better way.
A very very few people can be persuaded to change their spots, but so very few it is not worth spending much time on the matter. (Though those that do change, say, after the age of 25, are often our greatest fighters, in the manner of anti-smoking zealots who used to be heavy smokers.)
The second thing is this, you have to realise that those who do change from one extreme to another, are most likely possessors of highly volatile minds. This is a polite way of admitting that I could in some ways be judged as being ‘slightly short of a few bob in loose change’, as could many of my fellow ‘changelings’.
But it’s certainly a factor to be considered.
Obviously, we ‘changelings’ consider ourselves highly intelligent, creative, passionate, innovative, soulful, and magnificent. However others just call us lunatics. But we can live it, so long as we realise it’s a possibility.
(Though as Professor Thomas Szasz would say, ‘mental health’ may simply be an invention of the state to describe behaviours not wanted by the state.)
However, given that, where does one begin to cure one’s self from socialism?
I think the root of this must be George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Although Orwell himself remained a socialist until his dying day in a curious case of cognitive dissonance, this dystopic vision of the future rings so true as to the final nature of a socialist world, that it drives a fantastic nail into the heart of socialist ideals.
I think the next nail must be Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which describes the process via which ‘well-meaning’ government always comes to mean men with guns shooting people in the head for daring to disobey.
Next up, is Alexander Dolgun’s story, An American in the Gulag, which caused the first major crack in my own Stalinist edifice. Much more compelling than anything Solzhenitsyn ever wrote, Dolgun is unusual in being one of the very few men to come through the dreaded Sukhanovka KGB prison.
Once this book shook my Stalinism, the rot was in, and although it was to be a long road to Austria, the journey had finally begun.
I suppose I must include Atlas Shrugged, which pushed me into all the works of Rand, though I always felt she was missing something, and wondered why she had proven incapable of writing a sequel to Atlas Shrugged, turning instead to non-fiction to avoid having to write about how John Galt could run a successful American state without succumbing himself to the ring of power.
But Rand is, and always will be, a cul-de-sac. She is a statist and a collectivist, and a world entirely peopled by Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart clones, all smoking one very rational brand of cigarette, to provide fires in their mind, would be a very dull and oppressive place indeed, probably even worse than living in a Gulag.
At least in a Gulag, as Alexander Dolgun testifies, there is still some room left for a little freedom and rebellion, if only behind the closed curtains of your own mind. The Randians wouldn’t be happy until all rogue mental patterns, daring to deviate from the orthodox line of a long-dead woman, had been entirely eradicated by the comrades.
But Atlas Shrugged helps, as does her much more readable earlier work, Anthem, which I wouldn’t be surprised to know had been read by George Orwell before he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four.
I think by this time you will be turning for home on the last lap of the race, having done the hard yards already, especially if by this point you have discovered Mises.org.
So from then on it’s a swift gallop through Economics in One Lesson (Hazlitt), The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (Mises), Human Action (Mises), and finally, Man, Economy, and State, with Power and Market (Rothbard).
To finally kill off any remaining shreds and hangover vestiges of socialism, you must then hammer in the final stake through the heart, in the form of Socialism, by Von Mises himself. (IMHO, his finest work.)
From then on, there are hundreds of books to read and soak up. I’ll let you work out your own non-fiction ones, but the fictional ones to read are Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, anything by Robert Heinlein (especially the Moon is a Harsh Mistress), all of the Harry Potter novels, and Time Will Run Back, by Henry Hazlitt.
There’s many, many, many other books that will help. For instance, The Prince, by Machiavelli, Democracy the God that Failed, by Hoppe, and A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, also by Hoppe.
But by this point you should be well saved. So I’ll leave it for you to work out where to go next.