If you aren’t familiar with the “school” of “thought” that animates the Tea Party/Koch/Norquist faction of the Republican party when it comes to economic matters, you’re not alone. There is no school of thought that informs these folks on economic matters. However, they do subscribe to various schools of crazy proto-fascist dogma, which they describe as “economics.”
One such tome is Friedrich von Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” a brave attack on the tyranny known as “central planning.” Hayek argues that central planning naturally and inexorably leads to totalitarianism – an argument that Ronald Reagan employed when he bravely fought against free health care for old people (Medicare). In the present day, “The Road to Serfdom” is particularly attractive to the closet racists in the Tea Party, cursed as they are to be operating in the Era of Obama, as it expressly argues that giving poor people health care the same thing as slavery.
When economic power is centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery. It has been well said that, in a country where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation.
I’ll admit that I’m generally unfamiliar with Austrian “Economists” like Hayek that bravely take a stand in favor of “economic freedom,” and against food stamps. This is mostly because these people’s view of how the economy actually works has proven to be devastatingly flawed, over and over again. It turns out that unregulated capitalism leads to terrible boom and bust cycles and terrible social and economic inequality. Without a strong central government that (1) regulates growth in a rational manner, (2) ensures market integrity, and (3) engages in counter-cyclical monetary and fiscal policy, economic “growth” during expansions tends to be little more than illusory, with paper profits frequently wiped out during the bust.
We can look to the terrible market failure that occurred during the Bush administration for evidence of what happens when Hayek’s philosophy is followed by policymakers. When you allow large corporate institutions to effectively self-police, they engage in self-dealing and market manipulation, ultimately leading to a ruinous market failure that causes and results from loss of faith in the entire market system.
Even though joe six pack doesn’t want to hear it, we are collectively very lucky that the government stepped in to prevent a further market meltdown. Of course, a bunch of crooked fucking bankers who pumped up the bubble and gamed the crash got rich, but that’s because the state wasn’t sufficiently empowered to regulate their activities. If we had the kind of government that Hayek envisions, there would almost certainly be 20+% unemployment, and serious political instability and violence in this country. We saw this during the great depression.
Let me back away from even dignifying this dogma with an evidence-based counter argument. The point is that the Tea Party/Koch/Palin/Norquist/Paul Ryan types want you to believe that the government is infringing upon your “economic freedom,” which, they claim, is the same thing as slavery. They think that this glorious “economic freedom” requires that we have old people dying in the streets for want of medical care, and young people dying of malnutrition for want of food. The freedom to live free from want doesn’t come on to their radar. Why? Because they’re all privileged aristocratic fucks. Prissy boy cowards who can’t even imagine what it would be like to be pulled out of poor woman’s crotch.
In short, these people are dangerous morons.
I would also add that Hayek, who thinks tyranny results when “economic power is centralized as an instrument of political power,” advocates a profoundly anti-democratic (little d) philosophy. What Hayek is really saying is that the market should be insulated from the democratic political process. People shouldn’t be allowed to elect politicians who can make economic choices – because that would result in economic power being centralized as an instrument of political power.
This philosophy was embraced by U.S. jurisprudence during the gilded age, and just prior to the great depression. It was used to strike down, as “unconstitutional,” laws designed to prevent bakers from dying at age 40 (I am, of course, referring to the much-reviled Lochener case). Taken to it’s reasonable conclusion, this philosophy holds that duly elected lawmakers should not be able to outlaw child labor.
And that’s the crux of it. This “economic libertarianism” is little more than a figleaf for plutocracy/corporatism/fascism. It tells you to fear the government’s encroachment on your “economic freedom,” but has nothing to say about monopoly, wage-slavery, or crony capitalism.
It exists to trick stupid angry people into enslaving themselves. Like religion.
Which, finally, brings be around to my initial point. In a democracy, where citizens are at least nominally empowered to elect representatives to make economic choices for them, the “road to serfdom” is paved with tax cuts for the wealthy. When we allow the hyper-rich to accumulate fortunes of a vast scale, without properly taxing these fortunes, we ensure that the people who control vast quantities of capital can use it as an “instrument of political power,” utterly immune from the democratic process.
The more we cut taxes, the weaker our government becomes. Power that would ostensibly be held by government and subject to the democratic process is instead held in private hands. These unelected plutocrats then use this position of political power to become ever-wealthier, and ever-more powerful. This inexorably leads to oligarchy/corporatism/fascism, where unelected, hyper-rich individuals exercise power over our daily lives, destroying our “economic freedom.”
Paul Ryan wants to cut medicare, so that he can give the rich another huge tax cut. What he really wants is a society where the vast majority of people have to work until they drop dead – where seniors are denied medical care because they can’t pay for it. This is what real serfdom looks like. And we’re on the road as we speak.