Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tyler Cowen: Nothing to Look at Here, Folks, Just Keep Moving

Tyler Cowen writes in today's NYT:
“THE ROAD TO SERFDOM,” the critique of socialism written 65 years ago by the Nobel laureate economist Friedrich von Hayek, was recently No. 1 in nonfiction sales at

Many people, including the Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, have contended that growth of government power has, indeed, set us on such a road today. But the reality looks different. In many respects, the expansionary phase of big government is coming to an end, and quickly.
Oh yeah, the U.S. is coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq, real soon.

Obamacare is not really going to control what type of medical service is available in America. The new consumer agency stuck into the heart of the Federal Reserve is just a paper tiger.

And Obama really isn't getting a kill switch for the internet.

Everything is just peachy, like Cowen says.

How does Cowen reach this mad conclusion?

It's peachy, according to him, because of the Greek crisis. You see, aside from fighting wars,and paying for healthcare for the masses, the U.S. is on an austerity program because the Greek crisis is scaring Americans.

Cowen is pulling a slick trick here. He is claiming that government is about to shrink, and then switches the argument from the obvious growth of government to the fear of the Greek crisis.

Of course, the Greek crisis is a warning sign for what could happen to the financial sector in the U.S., that everyone can understand, but to translate this fear into the suggestion that government growth is over is absurd. Government is growing and taking control of our lives from thousands of different directions and it is doubtful the the fear of the Greek crisis will even have real impact in slowing the deficit.

Bottom line: Cowen has simply become an apologist for the state, twisting the reality of the situation to promote a benevolent view of a government that is a monster, that continues to growl and grow.

The truth of the matter is that the situation of an out of control government is very serious. Thomas DiLorenzo writes about the same Road to Serfdom that Cowen says doesn't apply to current America:

The parallels to today's world are unsettling, to say the least. Perhaps this is why, a few weeks ago, The Road to Serfdom ascended to #1 in sales on after Glenn Beck discussed the book on his Fox News Channel program. There may not be a Hitler on the horizon, but the extent to which governments all over the world have simply ignored the lessons of the past in response to the economic crisis that they created with their own monetary policies and other interventions is mind boggling. The US government, in particular, responded to the bust portion of the Greenspan Fed's boom-and-bust cycle with the most economically destructive — but politically centralizing — policies: trillion-dollar bailouts of failing corporations that will create moral-hazard problems the likes of which have never been seen; an escalation of the money supply that dwarfs the monetary inflation of the Greenspan Fed; the Soviet-style nationalization of automobile companies, banks, and much of the healthcare industry; government regulation of executive compensation; the appointment of dozens of dictatorial "czars" with unaccountable power to regulate and regiment myriad industries; trillion-dollar-a-year deficits; an expansion of the powers of the Fed (!); and a president who believes he has the power to fire corporate executives, nationalize industries, and send unmanned "drone" bombers to any country in the world on a whim.

Washington DC no longer recognizes any limits at all to its powers to "socially plan" all aspects of American life. This totalitarian impulse is not limited to national politics. The mayor of New York City believes he has the power to regulate all of the eating and drinking habits of New Yorkers, even including how much salt they consume with their meals and what type of soft drinks they can enjoy
Clearly, it's not that government is shrinking, it is that Cowen is one of the types of operators Hayek warned about in the chapter "The End of Truth". He called them "the totalitarians in our midst".

Cowen's attack in NYT on the application of the lessons in The Road to Serfdom to present day America makes DiLorenzo's upcoming course, The Road to Serfdom: Despotism, Then and Now, more important than ever. The big government apologists clearly want to muffle Hayek's warning that is contained in The Road to Serfdom.

1 comment:

  1. Odd to see the political opinions of a big government Keynesian like Galbraith dovetail with a "libertarian" like Tyler Cowen as they chant, in synchronized fashion, "Embrace Big Brother!"