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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Road to Serfdom by VDH

From an article by Victor David Hanson:
Otherwise we know the ultimate end of the present road: a vast bureaucracy of non-taxpaying incompetents, damning the estranged few for not producing ever more to be taxed, convinced that they are geniuses—and only due to some sort of unfairness have been surpassed by others.
Sounds like he's channeling Hayek's Road to Serfdom. But that does seem to be where it always ends up in the long run. Personally, I'm thinking of joining the vast bureaucracy of non-taxpaying incompetents. It looks like that's where the money will be in the future.


erp said...

The money is in joining the bureaucrazy, not in becoming an entitlee.

Bret said...

Not much difference between the bureaucrazy and an entitlee. Once hired, you don't really have to do anything - they can't get rid of you.

erp said...

Except the pay and the bennies are much better (they might even throw in a car).

Peter Burnet said...

The thread below seems to have been diverted into a discussion on one of the world's most boring topics--Sweden--so I will try to combine some thoughts I was mulling over with this one.

I am very uncomfortable with this libertarian-spawned effort to idealize (idolize?) the individual entrepreneur with the word "creative". Before you deconstruct its meaning to assure me it is just a neutral, descriptive word, let me point out that it is a word with very positive emotive connotations that suggests someone inherently unusual and deserving of some kind of special honour, or even reverance, for his accomplishments. We associate the word with positive values and accomplishments that are inherently good in themselves. We wouldn't describe Mao and Mengele as creative, although, strictly speaking, they surely were.

We know now that the recipe for prosperity includes a combination of peace/civil order, the rule of law, low taxes, minimal regulation, uncorrupted government and easy entry into commerce. Good government will stand for these, but there is no need to then beatify the citizen pursuing a living under such conditions or put him on a moral pedestal above those contributing to society in other ways. They say nothing about the characters or even aptitudes of individual actors or the inherent goodness of their undertakings or how they are pursued. Am I supposed to celebrate the pornmeister for the jobs he creates and value him above the dedicated public school teacher? Would you describe you local car dealer as "creative"? Success in the business world results from endless perms and coms of luck, hard work, connections, experience, cutthroat self-regard, innate talent, genius, integrity and roguishness. It isn't his creativity that we should be cherishing, it's the opportunity he has to set his course and better himself in a free society. Plus the creation of jobs and contribution to the national wealth is incidental to the entrepreneur's overall objective. Honouring an individual entrepreneur for his contribution to the GNP is a little like a tourism and hospitality association giving a special award of thanks to a religious pilgrim.

Pursuing self-interest in a free society is good. Collectively sanctifying wealth and greed is not.

erp said...

Peter, perhaps because profit has become something nasty in the minds of many people.

To be an entrepreneur is to risk your money and your reputation by putting your ideas into a free marketplace which can embrace or reject them. Society is hardly extolling entrepreneurs. In fact, thanks to a relentless barrage from the media, those who profit from their own sweat equity are condemned as "profiteers"!

Anyone successful at any job is probably "creative." To be otherwise is to succumb to the leftwing ideal of workers being interchangeable cogs in the wheel of the state.

Hey Skipper said...


Watch The Commanding Heights.

Bret said...


I'm terribly tempted to take your last comment and turn it into the subject for another post, but that might make it look like I'm picking on you and since you, IMO, are one of the clearest thinkers in the blogosphere, that's about the last impression I want to make.

I've had the chance to do various creative things in my life, including composing, arranging, playing the instruments, mixing, and producing a couple of CDs (which are always available here for the curious).

But by far the most creative thing has been starting companies. The metaphor I like is a conductor for a symphony orchestra that not only has to conduct, but has to write the music for every player in real time while he's simultaneously conducting the symphony. In this case the musicians are the employees and the suppliers and the clients and the regulators and the ... You might try to argue that people who run businesses are bad people, but they're nothing if not creative.

Yet I'll agree that there's no reason to idolize or honour the entrpreneur. They're doing it for a shot at wealth and possibly for the challenge and possibly for other reasons. But they are creative. And out of that creativity comes wealth and jobs for society.

You say that you know the recipe for prosperity and I agree with your formulation. However, few others agree with it. Certainly Obama and Congress do not. Most follow Harry's prescription of massive taxation of wealth, high level of regulation, and righting the wrongs of the past (which generally requires rule-by-fiat, not rule-of-law).

Thus, I'm not even vaguely uncomfortable with bringing the positive aspects of entrepreneurialism to society whenever possible in order to counteract the inclination of the majority to head towards severely restricting the activities of entrepreneurs.

Peter Burnet said...

You might try to argue that people who run businesses are bad people,

C'mon, Bret, you're better than that. I would hardly call myself a conservative if I thought that. I'm more than happy to admire and honour individual entrepreneurs who accomplish much and I fully understand they are the ones who put bread on our tables. My objection is to ascribing virtue to them as a class, a game better reserved for noble professions like lawyers. :-)

This isn't just an abstract argument we are having here. I was much put off by many libertarian blogs and articles last fall when the economy tanked to the effect that, despite the fact the financial markets were out of control and all manner of madness and fiduciary deceit was at play, we should be grateful for the creativity of these hard-working, misunderstood folks with their chalets and Beemers and realize it was all the fault of the stupid little people who borrowed and invested unwisely, despite their having been subjected to every psychological manipulation in the book to convince them it was smart to do so. Like you, I have no time for Democrat voodoo economics, but I can sure understand why we're probably going to be stuck with them until conservatives do some hard thinking and get their bearings back rather than just sniff about the lazy rabble and noblesse oblige like offended aristocrats waiting for the tumbril.

I think we're on the fault line between libertarianism and a more organic traditional conservatism here. You may have theoretical economics on your side, but I think I know a bit about revolutions, or at least left-wing hegemony.

Bret said...


I didn't mean that "you" in particular would argue "that people who run businesses are bad people". The "you" that I wrote was supposed to be a general "you" and I should've written "one" instead of "you". When it comes to writing (especially late at night), there are some serious limitations with my creativity. :-)

I have also been put off by ideological libertarians and have even written about it. They are just so unrealistic about what can be accomplished.

And blame can be directed at Wall Street, but they couldn't have created the melt down on their own. They needed, and got, a lot of help.

Here's one interesting aside. There was hardly any talk of criminal prosecution. Nobody did anything illegal. They played by the rules. It was just that the rules were badly distorted.

Anyway, back to creativity and entrepreneurialism. I think that one area of fairly wide agreement is that the small business person is creative, does create jobs and wealth, isn't a danger to society because of systemic risk, and should be encouraged (or at least not discouraged with heavy taxation and regulation). This is what conservatives and libertarians should concentrate on. I think they would connect with the voters with such a message.

What revolutions have you been involved with lately? Been running around with the Tamil Tigers or something? :-)