17 July 2016

H.G. Wells, Hayek and the ‘rights of man’

H.G. Wells included a ‘Declaration on the Rights of Man’ in his book The New World Order, published in 1940. This contains, for example, the assertion that every man
shall have the right to buy or sell without any discriminatory restrictions anything which may be lawfully bought or sold, in such quantities and with such reservations as are compatible with the common welfare. *
As Hayek pointed out in The Road to Serfdom, a ‘right’ of this kind, limited to what is lawful and compatible with the ‘common welfare’, does not amount to much.
It is pathetic, but characteristic of the muddle into which many of our intellectuals have been led by the conflicting ideals in which they believe, that a leading advocate of the most comprehensive central planning like Mr. H. G. Wells should at the same time write an ardent defence of the Rights of Man.

The individual rights which Mr. Wells hopes to preserve would inevitably obstruct the planning which he desires. [...] we find therefore the provisions of his proposed ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’ so hedged about with qualifications that they lose all significance. **

* H.G. Wells, The New World Order, Secker & Warburg 1940, chapter 10.
** F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Ark Books 1986, p.63.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position.
I need people to provide moral support both for fund-raising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.