Adam Curtis documentary on freedom

In: Uncategorized

11 Mar 2007

The first episode of The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?, a BBC2 documentary by Adam Curtis, was characteristically wide-ranging and thought provoking. It showed how a particular notion of freedom evolved during the Cold War which emphasised the importance of the rational individual against ideas of the public interest or altruism. Curtis linked this idea of rational individuals to the free market economics of Friedrich Hayek, game theory (eg John Nash), public choice theory (eg James Buchanan) and the anti-psychiatry movement of RD Laing. Other manifestations of this idea include privatisation and the “internal market” within the National Health Service. TV programmes such as Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, written by an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, also embody the idea that a unified public interest is a myth. Instead institutions have to be devised to ensure that individuals respond to rational incentives. Next week Curtis will evidently go on to show how the popularisation of such ideas led to a widening of inequality.

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