Everyone Belongs to Everyone Else
By Pierre Lemieux
The title of this post is borrowed from a character in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), where politically-correct snowflakes and easy women are one. Fanny explains to Lenina that she must be promiscuous because “everyone belongs to everyone else.” Lenina repeats what must seem a truism to her.
F.A. Hayek, the Nobel economics laureate, devotes a whole chapter of The Fatal Conceit (1988) to “Our Poisoned Language.” He complains that our language is plagued by archaic tribalism, animisn, and their modern incarnation, collectivism. “So long as we speak in language based on erroneous theory, we generate and perpetuate error,” he writes.
One manifestation of this is the incredible confusion between the terms “country,” “nation,” “state” or “government,” and “society.” They seem to all mean the same, because they are all “us,” and as Fanny and Lenina thought “we” all belong to “us”. Of course, those who incarnate the “we” rule over the rest of us; we really belong to them, like under the “plantation state” evoked by Anthony de Jasay in the last chapter of The State (1985, 1998). (See also my “The Vacuity of the Political ‘we’,” Econlib, October 6, 2014.)
I found another example of the collectivist and at best confusing way of speaking (at worst, it’s tyrannical). Apparently a society belongs to its country, as Fanny and Lenina could have said. This way of speaking, which looks like voodoo sociology and politics, must have seen innocuous to the three reporters, their editor, and the copy-editor involved, vindicating Hayek. It is in the Wall Street Journal of April 7 (“Global Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 81,000 as Some Lockdowns Tighten“):
In Europe, some countries that credit strict containment measures with helping to curb the contagion began taking steps to reopen their societies after a month of lockdown.