Reprinted from EconLib
Over the past 10 years, I have been baffled as I watched the conservative movement transform into a strange wing of progressivism – especially on economic issues. Whereas conservatives at least once paid lip service to limited government, fiscal prudence, and personal responsibility, conservatives now ignore the scale of government and fiscal responsibility. They are increasingly calling for greater child tax credit, a universal basic income, and paid time off regulated and guaranteed by the federal government. Many conservatives also now proudly embrace tariffs, hyperactive antitrust, and industrial policy (often justified, of course, as necessary to “fight” China).
Conservatives—or at least the more politically active—return to themselves in the 1920s (see Matt Conti’s book, Right: The Hundred Years’ War for American Conservatism.) I failed to see this rebound happening, in part because I moved to the United States in 1999 and until recently had been somewhat ignorant of the history of the conservative movement—and how the past 40 years have been more of an exception than the rule.
I’m afraid this latest trend is just the beginning. It won’t be long before the Conservative platform becomes a full-fledged version of big government, big corporations and big unions. It’s frustrating.
It’s hard not to wonder if the Freedom Now movement is failing to follow in the footsteps of Hayek, Friedman, and other greats.The tenthFreedom Heroes of the Century. It is now important to realize that on most fronts the challenges faced by the first and second generation of members of the Mont-Pellerin Society, if any, were greater than what we champions of freedom face today. After all, people in 1947 – or even 1987 – could not, as we can today, point to the actual collapse of socialist states as evidence of the dangers of collectivism. However, Hayek and his peers left us with a world more accepting of free trade and free market economics, even if these liberal policies were not the default.
Perhaps the most optimistic way of seeing the current state of affairs is to be inspired by those who fought for a more classical liberal world at a time when things were looking particularly bleak. Instead of despairing, draw your energy from this challenge. But this raises the question of what is the best way and not only to keep The torch of freedom Spread He. She. What are the next steps, I do not know. I am open to your suggestions. The private sector continues to deliver innovation, growth, and prosperity at scale. But as of today, few people are willing to admit that it is the free market system that allows these wonderful things to happen, and that while imperfect of course (mostly due to weak government interventions), any alternatives would be far worse.
How do you fight a battle of ideas when so many people don’t trust the institutions that host us who produce and implement these ideas? I have spent most of my career producing work to show that the arguments for government interventions are not valid. For example, in this new paper with Chuck Blahous, he and I take the neoconservative recommendation that Social Security be used to provide paid leave benefits. We show, again, all the ways that this is a terrible idea. Of course, I think such work is important, because these are serious proposals that have been made in Congress and supported by a relatively large number of conservatives. But is there a better way?
In this new paper, Gary Leaf and I argue that next time lawmakers tend to bail out airlines ostensibly to make sure they will be ready when the economy reopens, the public should remember the actual, frustrating results of the recent bailout. But Congress will not change its response unless we change the incentives politicians face during the next emergency. how to do that? After all these years, I still don’t know.
Offering a vision of what the libertarian world looks like might be more effective. That’s what Aaron Powell does in this edited volume. I recommend it. I think this approach also describes a lot of Brian Kaplan’s work. It inspires by offering a vision of what a world would look like without government subsidies for higher education, a world with largely open borders, and a world with radically less restrictions on homebuilding.
The Fraser Institute’s Index of Economic Freedom offers such a view, because it is a concrete way of showing what countries with less economic freedom look like compared to those with more. The The World Economic Freedom Report 2022 It was released earlier today; Economic freedom has declined in all countries, thanks more to the pandemic responses, but the United States has actually fallen more far compared to other countries. The rating of the United States decreased by twice The average reduction amount worldwide. The United States is at the lowest level of economic freedom in four decades.
The bottom line is that while I’m usually an optimist, I find myself increasingly anxious and wondering what we’ve done wrong and what to do next.