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Newt Gingrich, Very Bad Literary Critic

Newt Gingrich, speaking at CPAC, declared:

Orwell points out, after ["1984"] became famous, that the novel is not about the Soviet Union. The novel is about the logical extension of centralized government in Great Britain. The novel is proof of Hayek's principle that centralized planning inherently leads to dictatorship, which is why having a secular, socialist machine try to impose government-run health care on this country is such a significant step away from freedom and away from liberty and towards a government-dominated society.

As Rick Hertzberg points out, Orwell was not warning about socialism, or even government sponsored health care. He was a socialist, and far more left-wing than anybody in the Democratic Party. I'd also add that "1984" was not about central planning. The only way to make the leap Gingrich makes is to read a warning about totalitarianism as a warning against "government," which means "1984" was a warning against the interstate highway system or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Also, the Democratic health care plans are not central planning. Indeed, they're dramatically more free market in nature than Medicare, which Republican now hold inviolable.

I'm actually trying to think of what parts of Gingrich's little discourse could actually be considered true. It is true that Hayek argued that "centralized planning inherently leads to dictatorship." But that argument has also proven utterly false. None of the democratic centrally planned postwar economies Hayek warned against tipped over into, or anywhere close to, dictatorship.