"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hayek Knew 75 Years Ago

Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn capture the key issue with Obamacare in yesterday's interview:

HH: Here’s the biggest lie of all. Here’s number five, Sebelius yesterday, cut number five.
KS: They indicated to me that we would always have risk, because this system is brand new, and no one has operated a system like this before to any degree. So we always knew that there would be the possibility that some things would go wrong. No one indicated that this could possibly go this wrong.
HH: That is such a lie, Mark Steyn. You’ve been saying it for a decade. I’ve been saying it for as long as you’ve been saying it.
MS: Yeah, I mean, basically what happened is the United States government took over another G-7 economy. It basically took over the entire French economy. It swallowed it whole. So it’s the equivalent of making a website to navigate the entire French economy.
HH: Wow.
MS: That’s the scale of what they did. No one has ever attempted, you can do it if you’re the Bolsheviks in 1917 and you’re taking over a semi-feudal ramshackle country like tsarist Russia.
HH: And you’re willing to shoot the people who won’t go along.

Hayek identified the fatal conceit of socialism back in the 1930s -- that central government planning of economies could not work, because the central planners could never know enough information to plan, because the market is constantly creating new information about what people want, what people don't want, what processes work, what processes don't work.   The market captures that information in the billions and billions of prices that are constantly changing -- prices for commodities, for labor, for raw materials, for finished goods, for transportation services, for... well, you name it.   Go back and re-read the famous Leonard Read essay "I, Pencil."   Or re-read the first chapter of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.   Or re-read Hayek's great essay on the Use of Knowledge in Society.   This is not news to anybody who cared to think.  

Arrogance about the ability of central planners might have been tolerable as a natural human error (although not tolerable in practice) in 1917.   But the failures of socialism by 2009 were so established as historical fact that there really wasn't an excuse for Obamacare.   Other than as a raw power-grab, that is.   We haven't started shooting people who won't go along yet.   But we're on the road to serfdom, that's for sure.

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