Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hayek's Real Warning

Matthew Yglesias » Traffic Jam on the Road to Serfdom
F.A. Hayek had a lot of smart and interesting ideas, but I join Alan Beattie in finding it bizarre that the work of his that people have the most interest in promoting nowadays is The Road to Serfdom, which is based around a provocative but in retrospect clearly mistaken idea:
This would be an interesting thesis, had it not turned out to be manifestly wrong. Even Hayek himself, towering genius though he was, looks a bit silly in retrospect....

There’s a debate to be had on the boundaries between private and public. But it’s hard to have it with people who look at a state-run Swedish kindergarten and see a boot stamping on a human face forever.
Not content to simply conjure up a single straw man for destruction, this argument against Hayek enlists an entire kindergarten of straw children!

I've said it before, but it obviously needs to be repeated.  The warning in Serfdom is not about the existence of a state-run welfare apparatus.  It was a warning of the dire, and still very real, consequences of turning economic decision making over to the state for the purpose of a larger goal.  In other words, planning.  If you follow the link and read the full Beattie quote, it's like he didn't even read the Hayek quote he holds up as proof of his position.

Now if the welfare state ever grew so large that its continued existence required that the state start making economic decision, I think that Hayek's fears would be realized.  At that point, this author, and the rest of us, would have a whole lot more to worry about than someone looking silly.  To relax our guard against such an eventuality at this point would be incredibly stupid.

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