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The Rosett Report

No, We Are Not All Socialists Now

February 15th, 2009 - 3:34 am

Over at Newsweek, they may all be socialists now . But some of us persist in believing that transferring ever more power to the state is such a disaster for both our economy and our freedoms that America deserves the effort — no matter how untrendy — to reverse the tide. Yes, we now have a congress in which the majority count it as a great achievement to ram through the biggest spending binge in history. Yes, we have a president who praises this $787 billion act of government gluttony and central planning as “progress.” But that doesn’t mean we should burn the remaining copies of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose, and line up to chuck The Wealth of Nations into the collectively-owned woodchipper.

Most disturbing in that Newsweek piece, which echoes President Obama’s dismissive rhetoric about free markets, is the patronizing tone in which we are told that there is no point in further debate:

If we fail to acknowledge the reality of the growing role of government in the economy, insisting instead on fighting 21st-century wars with 20th-century terms and tactics, then we are doomed to a fractious and unedifying debate. The sooner we understand where we truly stand, the sooner we can think more clearly about how to use government in today’s world.

What, exactly, are these dazzling new 21st-century terms and tactics for which we are supposed to forsake all memory and spurn all debate? The cult of “climate change?” The group chant of “We are one” -? Deep thinking as represented on Google News?

Actually, there is a desperate need to revive those 20th century debates about government versus free markets — and there is plenty of room for such debates to be edifying in the extreme, since many of those now waving aside free markets and genuinely private enterprise seem to have chucked right down the memory hole such basic and vital insights as those set forth by Friedrich Hayek in his 1944 Road to Serfdom, or his indispensable 1945 essay on The Use of Knowledge in Society.

This is an excellent time to revive the lessons about the importance of free-market prices as signals of where resources can most productively be put to use (that’s how America got rich). This is a great time to re-examine the loss of freedom, and the immense damper imposed on creativity, productivity and individual dreams, when government controls people’s livelihoods. And there could be no better time to review what actually went wrong in America’s system in recent years – with profligate budgets, loose money and government poisoning the housing market with forced lending, implied taxpayer guarantees, and hellish knock-on toxic effects. Fannie Mae was not something cooked up by the free market. It was a product of the same state-engineering mindset that now brings us the godzilla “stimulus” bill.

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