Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What about Socialism?

As I indicated here a couple of years ago, I believe small government conservatism was dead politically, and it shows no real sign of revival. While I believe that the charges of socialism leveled at the Obama administration are overwrought, there's no doubt that economic policy will involve more government intervention than in past, probably more than in decades.

Hayek's argument in The Road the Serfdom was not exactly an argument against socialism. Rather, it was an argument against government planning in the economic sphere. The context for this argument was World War II, which had involved a massive expansion of government planning in the economy, with the government controlling wages and prices and production. Hayek conceded this was necessary--the goal of defeating fascism was more important than economic freedom.

I think that context however is important in understanding how much intervention the free market can stand. And, the experience of World War II tells we are a long way from what was of concern to Hayek. This is not necessarily an argument in favor of government bailouts of GM. Rather, it suggests that a government bailout of GM on top of government putting stricter regulations in place over the financial sector are a long way from the way government planned the economy in the early 40s.

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