It has "invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing," the philosopher and economist
In fairness to American conservatism, Hayek was talking primarily about the European variant that defended a status quo of aristocracy, theocracy and a fairly closed economy. But his basic point about the conservative temperament has always resonated with me, because it rings true. Conservatives often start from the position of saying "No" to any new proposal or reform and end up, because of the nature of politics, agreeing to some compromise between no and a total yes.
Sometimes this is fine. Sometimes it's worse than doing nothing. For example, imagine that liberals want to build a bridge that conservatives think is unnecessary pork. Compromising on half a bridge is dumber than no bridge or a whole bridge. Cheering the "bipartisan" or "centrist" nature of the half-bridge deal doesn't change the foolishness of it. Worse, liberals understand that they can pocket the concessions and benefits (union jobs, expanding the baseline budget, etc.) and come back the next year to demand more money to finish the project. As
This dynamic doesn't just apply to public works but to a whole raft of market-distorting policies, from subsidies for higher education and health care to entitlements. The political priority for liberals is to establish the principle that there is a role for government in X and then keep insisting that the supposedly worthy initiative is underfunded. Look at where
What makes this dialectic so frustrating for conservatives is that whenever government regulations lead to higher prices -- in college tuition, energy prices, rent, etc. -- the champions of further regulation blame the free market for failing to fix the problem.
This seems worth bearing in mind as
However it's spent, or paid for, you can be sure that before the last dollar goes out the door,
I don't really have a solution, in part because I'm not sure there is one. And as the saying goes, a problem without a solution isn't a problem, it's simply a fact. This is the nature of politics generally, and not just for conservatives. After all, there are many issues where liberals start from a position of "No" and end up being forced to accept a compromise they don't like.
But, as a conservative of the Hayekian variety, I see a particular threat in how some on the right are responding to this inconvenient truth: They want to get in on the action.
Historically, the primary conservative argument against top-down planning wasn't so much that politicians and bureaucrats aren't smart enough to run the economy from some
On some parts of the right, the argument is changing. The new proponents of "economic nationalism" no longer think elites can't run the economy -- just that liberal elites, or "globalists," can't run it. Part of this stems from the often-paranoid conviction that liberal elites have brilliantly rigged the system in their favor. So, the thinking goes, if they can pull that off, so can we.
It doesn't work that way. Such thinking is wrong regardless of the partisan agenda behind it, which is why Hayek dedicated his book "The Road to Serfdom" to "the Socialists of All Parties."
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