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Category — Hayek, F. A.

‘The Road to Serfdom’ at 70: Hayek’s Relevance in the Age of Obama

“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation …. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” (President Obama, January 14, 2014)

“The Road to Serfdom showed that government planning was not only an economic disaster, but also more tellingly a step-by-step, process-oriented political system of control and management that threatened to bring about the end of human freedom.”

Seventy years ago this month (March 1944), The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek was published in Great Britain. Today, this slim book continues to challenge and influence the political-economic landscape of the world.

Hayek delivered an ominous warning that political trends in the Western democracies, including America, were all in the direction of a new form of servitude that threatened the personal and economic liberty of the citizens of these countries.

Hayek (1899–1992) was already famous as the leading free-market opponent of the emerging Keynesian Revolution in the 1930s. He also was one of the most prominent critics of socialist central planning, having helped demonstrate why government management of an entire economy was inherently unworkable, and could never “deliver the goods” as efficiently and effectively as competitive capitalism.

Published During Global War, Socialist Dangers

The Road to Serfdom showed that government planning was not only an economic disaster, but also more tellingly a step-by-step, process-oriented political system of control and management that threatened to bring about the end of human freedom.

When the book was published, Great Britain and the United States were engulfed in a global war with Nazi Germany as the primary enemy and Soviet Russia as the primary ally. In 1944 the British had a wartime coalition government of both Conservative and Labor Party members, with Winston Churchill as its head. [Read more →]

March 14, 2014   1 Comment

The “Fatal Conceit” in One Letter (‘carbon-negative’ power plants ready to go!)

‘You get what you pay for’ is a saying that is often invoked when the cheaper product disappoints. And when it comes to subsidizing agenda-driven intellectuals (versus open-minded scholars), you also get what you pay for–and way too much of it.

Such is the case in the greatly over-financed climate change/energy transformation field where the participants assume what must be debated.

Recently, the New York Times published a letter-to-the-editor under the title Carbon Capture. The missive stuck me as a problematic one in its public-policy leanings. And it (negatively) impressed me as an example of intellectual conceit,with both the problem and the solution being wildly exaggerated.

Here it is:

Possibly Unavoidable Answer on Climate,” by Eduardo Porter (Economic Scene, Nov. 20), is commendable for its recognition that we are in a race against time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

His confidence in nuclear energy as a means for heading off the impending crisis, however, is misplaced for several reasons, the most important of which is that technology is available that can be scaled up far more rapidly, cheaply and with no risks to the health and safety of adjacent communities. [Read more →]

January 3, 2014   6 Comments

The ‘New’ Confusion About Planning: T. Boone Pickens and Energy Public Policy

“[A]s my father liked to tell me, ‘Son, a fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan any day.’ Right now, when it comes to America and our effort to achieve greater energy security, we’re a foolish nation without a plan.

If it were up to me, America’s energy plan would have ….”

- T. Boone Pickens, Leadership Absent on Energy Plan,” Omaha World-Herald, May 1, 2013.

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine the can design.”

- F. A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988), p. 76.

T. Boone Pickens, the author and marketer of three national energy plans (see yesterday’s post), is a “man of system,” to use Adam Smith’s phrase from the mid-18th century.

Pickens’s grandiose scheme to use the powers of government to implement wind-for-natural-gas in  electrical generation and natural-gas-for-oil in transportation (Pickens I) inspired Carl Pope, then head of the Sierra Club, to state back in 2008: “To put it plainly, T. Boone Pickens is out to save America.” [1] Plans II and III dropped wind (when business Boone did) to just push natural gas in the transportation market.

To plan or not plan–that is the wrong question in the realm of human action. Purposeful human action is planning. A central plan enforced by government (which by definition has a legal monopoly on the initiation of force) precludes planning on the individual and group level done by voluntary means.

Thus T. Boone Pickens has fundamentally misconstrued the question of planning which is who will plan: the market through private property, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law or government through its “experts” and legal monopoly on coercion.

Early Warming: Adam Smith [Read more →]

May 15, 2013   3 Comments

New York’s (Agenda 21) “Sustainability” Planning: What About Wind Power’s Ecological Insults

“The Sustainable Development Challenge Grant program is also a step in implementing ‘Agenda 21, the Global Plan of Action on Sustainable Development,’ signed by the United States at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. All of these programs require broad community participation to identify and address environmental issues.”

- Environmental Protection Agency, 63 Fed. Reg. 45157 (August 24, 1998).

On January 26, 2012, I attended the final meeting in Batavia, NY, for the Finger Lakes “Regional ‘Sustainability’ Plan,” part of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s $10 million statewide program to have regional Planning Departments orchestrate “sustainability” plans described in NYSERDA’s “Cleaner, Greener Communities” Program. Here is my take on what is going on in regard to this extensive plan across New York State.

As those who have studied the United Nations’s ‘Agenda 21′ plan know, “Sustainability” is a key buzzword that is part-and-parcel of the UN’s ‘Agenda 21′. There is no doubt that the “Sustainability” Plan currently being devised by Planning Departments across the state, who are acting “under NYSERDA’s thumb” (as one Planner phrased it at their first meeting in Batavia), is ‘Agenda 21′ in the works (think carbon taxes, ‘green’ energy transfer-of-wealth schemes, and one-world governance).

At the “open-house style” meeting in Batavia last week, folks were asked to read the poster boards relevant to each part of the overall plan: Land Use, Water Use, Agriculture, Forestry, Waste Management, Economic Development, and Energy — and to then use sticky notes to post their comments on the boards for each particular segment of the plan. [Read more →]

March 5, 2013   21 Comments

F. A. Hayek on Conservation (beware of central planning with minerals too)

“Running out of resources” has been a common refrain among the intellectual class and policymakers since the beginning of the oil industry. L. C. Gray (1913) and Harold Hotelling (1931) cemented the fixity-depletion view of minerals that swept the economics profession; so did the presidency of Jimmy Carter, in the (regulatory-induced) troubled 1970s.

Remember the lament of James Schlesinger, the  first energy secretary for Carter’s new Department of Energy: “We have a classic Malthusian case of exponential growth against a finite source.” And the confident conclusion of Amory Lovins:

All oil and gas resources should be carefully husbanded—i.e. extracted as late and as slowly as possible. Our descendents will be grateful. We, too, shall need a long bridge to the future.

But when surplus conditions with oil and gas returned in the 1980s, the lost voices of Erich Zimmermann and M. A. Adelman, and the new voice of Julian Simon, found an audience.

Planned Conservation (Conservationism)

The depletionist worldview raised the question of what was the ‘right’ consumption profile, which inevitably involved government intervention to correct the alleged ‘market failure’ of overproduction/overconsumption. Enter F. A. Hayek (1899–1992), one of the century’s leading critics of government planning.

In The Constitution of Liberty (1960), Hayek evaluated “the necessity of central direction of the conservation of natural resources,” a view that was “particularly strong in the United States, where the ‘conservation movement’ has to a great extent been the source of the agitation for economic planning and has contributed much to the indigenous ideology of the radical economic reformers.” [1] [Read more →]

December 28, 2011   1 Comment