In his latest work, The New Road to Serfdom, British author and politician Daniel Hannan expounds on F.A. Hayek’s warning that centralized power leads inevitably to statism, despotism, and the loss of individual liberty. As a leading conservative voice in American politics today, Hannan became an overnight sensation in 2009 when he courageously and openly criticized Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the floor of the European Parliament. The YouTube video, which captures his growing abhorrence for unchecked bureaucratic authority and unprecedented public sector growth, became a clarion call on both sides of the Atlantic to cut entitlement programs and stop the centralization of governmental power.
His book, however, does not focus on the deficiencies of European governance as much as on the essential greatness of the United States. Hannon argues that the structures of America’s government – and the ratification of the Constitution – are the two reasons why America was able to usher in nearly three centuries of unprecedented prosperity. But recently, since 2009, these principles have been fundamentally and egregiously undermined by the misguided policies of the current administration.
He prefaces his thesis, moreover, with the premise that America is distinct from every other nation in world history. Almost every individual since the dawn of man, he asserts, stretching from Asia to Western Europe, was born into civilizations they did not choose. These men and women, he argues, grew up in places where they were defined by their territory, ethnicity and language. The United States, by contrast, was unique in the sense that it was founded upon a set of principles. In other words, to become an American was never incidental or by accident, but was a conscious decision made by generations of individuals and their posterity. As Hannan writes, “Allegiance to the United States means allegiance to its foundational texts and the principles inherent therein. It means loyalty to the republican ideal.”
While this subtle distinction may seem trivial, it underscores the important differences between Europe and the United States. The U.S. Constitution, unlike the E.U. Constitution, is predicated on preserving the liberty of the individual. Hannan contends that the American system of government – which allows for open primaries, term limits and direct elections – are the three most important political institutions that have historically safeguarded and preserved American liberty. European leaders, by contrast, can often maintain positions of power by procuring appointments, therefore circumventing the attitudes of public opinion. Unscrupulous demagogues habitually take advantage of the European system, and become entrenched in political office where they frequently serve for life.
Hannon further debunks the myth, promulgated by European anti-capitalists, that America is a greedy nation incapable of compassion. On the contrary, he contends, the average American gives $300 a year to charity – nearly four times what the average European gives. Moreover, he blasts anti-American media outlets that denounced the United States for their purported negligence during the 2010 Haitian earthquake. What they didn’t report, he explains, was that the U.S. military deployed 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne to Port-au-Prince within hours after learning of the devastation.
Hannan rightly acknowledges that there will always be nations as well as individuals who oppose and support the United States. He also concedes that America, like all nations, has not always lived up to its ideals. The sin of slavery and racial segregation are some, albeit not all, of America’s historical failures. Yet remarkably, the founding principles written down by Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and others, have withstood the test of time. Even through the darkest periods of our nation’s history, during times of racial discrimination, recession and even civil war, these principles have survived. As a foreign politician with a firm understanding of American institutions, Hannon urges all citizens to appreciate the innumerable benefits of the Constitution, to preserve the principles enshrined therein, and to fight vigorously against the Europeanization of what he considers to be the greatest country in the history of the world.To purchase a copy of The New Road to Serfdom click here.