Mises Institute of Scotland - Austrian Economics & the Liberty of Man

Taking The High Road to Serfdom

by admin

Take the High Road; is an piece of the lyric to the traditional Jacobite lament “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”. It is from the chorus:

O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye,
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

This refers to a Scots tradition and belief that when a Scot dies his/her soul/spirit shall travel to Scotland before passing onto the next world which is called the low road in the song. The high road belongs to the living and the low road to the dead.

Written in dark days following the defeat of the Jacobite cause, this song has become a much loved part of contemporary Scots culture, it is sung at weddings, dances and football stadiums, any in doubt of this should view the following video:

In the dark days of 1940’s Europe, economist F A Von Hayek saw another road, a road from the collective effort of war to a collectivisation of the peace and of society as a whole. The end of road he saw was a loss of liberty so complete and impoverishing (both economically and spiritually) as to merit the name “serfdom”.


In contemporary Scotland we see a headlong, and largely unnoticed rush along that road; nationalism and socialism are meeting to create an impetus to ever more complete and invasive state control of all aspects of life. The background is a social-democratic state with those concepts taken to their logical conclusion. It current signs are attacks upon the family, upon property rights, and upon any seat of competing political, cultural or economic authority.

Those responsible are taking the High Road as defined in the song as they are very human, very alive and bringing their beliefs home to Scotland. They consider themselves to lewisbe taking the high road as an American might understand the term; as they bring a a morally superior approach towards each new enslavement. As CS Lewis explained this is the worst of all tyrannies:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Our wise overlords have us on the High Road to Serfdom; in this blog series we shall explore each step, drawing insights from Hayek’s 1940’s masterpiece and arguing that freedom not servitude is the natural and happy state we should work towards.