The road to serfdom is paved by conservatives

Over the last ten years I’ve been amazed as I’ve watched the conservative movement become a strange branch of progressivism—especially on economic issues. Once at least paying lip service to limited government, fiscal prudence and personal responsibility, conservatives now ignore the size of government and fiscal responsibility. They increasingly call for a larger child tax credit, a universal basic income, and paid leave to be provided and guaranteed by the federal government. Many conservatives now proudly embrace tariffs, hyperactive antitrust, and industrial policies (often justified, of course, as necessary to fight China).

Conservatives – or at least more politically active – are going back to their 1920s (see Matt Continetti’s book, Right: The 100-year battle for American conservatism.) I failed to see this comeback happening, because I moved to the US in 1999 and until recently was fairly ignorant of the history of the conservative movement—and how the last forty years have been more the exception than the rule.

I fear that this recent trend is just the beginning. It won’t be long before the Conservatives’ platform becomes a full-on version of big government, big business and big unions. It’s frustrating.

It is not hard to wonder if the independence movement is now failing to follow in the footsteps of Hayek, Friedman and other great 20s.m– The champion of freedom of the century. It is now important to recognize that on most fronts the challenges faced by the first and second generation members of the Mont Pellerin Society were, if anything, greater than what we champions of freedom face today. After all, people in 1947 and even 1987 could not, as we can today, point to the actual collapse of socialist states as evidence of the dangers of collectivism. And yet Hayek and his colleagues left us with a world that was more accepting of free trade and free-market economics, even if these liberal principles were not the default position.

Perhaps a more optimistic way to look at the current situation is to be inspired by those who fought for a more classically liberal world at a time when things looked particularly grim. Instead of despair, be encouraged by the challenge. But this raises the question of what the best way is not only to save But the flame of freedom spreading out What the next step is, I don’t know. I am open to your suggestions. The private sector continues to drive innovation, growth and massive prosperity. But to this day, few are willing to admit that it is the free-market system that allows these wonderful things to happen, and of course, imperfect (often hampered by government intervention), any alternative would be worse.

How do you fight a war of ideas when so many people distrust the institutions that those of us create and implement those ideas? I have spent most of my professional life showing that the arguments for government intervention are on the bank. For example, in this new paper with Chuck Blahaus, he and I adopt the new conservative recommendation that Social Security be used to provide paid leave benefits. We show all the ways again that this is a terrible idea. Of course, I believe that such work is important, since these are serious proposals introduced in Congress and supported by a fair number of conservatives. But is there a better way?

In this new paper, Gary Leff and I argue that the next time lawmakers are tempted to bail out airlines to ensure they’ll be ready when the economy reopens, the public should remember the real, disappointing results of the most recent bailout. But Congress won’t change its response until we change the incentives politicians face during the next emergency. How do we do that? After all these years, I still don’t know.

It might be more useful to provide a vision of what a libertarian world looks like. That’s what Aaron Powell does in this edited volume. I recommend it. I think this approach also describes much of the work of former Economist blogger Brian Kaplan. He offers inspiration about what a world without government subsidies in higher education would look like, a world with wide-open borders, and a world with radically less restrictions on home building.

The Fraser Institute’s Index of Economic Freedom provides such a perspective, as it is a precise way to show what countries with more freedom look like compared to those with less economic freedom. The 2022 Economic Freedom of the World Report was released earlier today; All countries saw economic freedom decline, thanks to peak pandemic responses, but the United States actually declined more than most other countries. US ratings down twice The amount of global average decline. The United States is at its 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 did wrong and what to do next.


Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and a syndicated columnist for Creators.

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