Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Instant Utopia by Henry Hazlitt

Man vs. The Welfare State

IN AMERICA TODAY MOST OF THE OLDER GENERAtion—and many of the young—stand appalled at the nihilism of the self-styled Now Generation and its demands for unattainable reforms, or merely for the sheer destruction of whatever is established.

But the cynicism, nihilism, and revolt of “youth,” and even of some of its parents, are the result of a common cause. In the last generation politicians and governments have been promising the voters that they could not only bring perpetual full employment, prosperity, and “economic growth,” but solve the age-old problem of poverty overnight. And the end result is not merely that accomplishment has fallen far short of promises, but that the attempt to fulfill the promises has brought an enormous increase in government spending, an enormous increase in the burden of taxes, chronic deficits, chronic inflation, and a constant loss in the buying power of the people’s earnings and savings. “Social Security” has brought an ominous increase in social insecurity.

Another result of the promise of instant utopia has been a gigantic growth of governmental power—of interference in the details of everybody’s business and everybody’s life. As this power has increased, it has also become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. In America the towns and villages have steadily lost power to the States, the States to the Federal Government, and Congress to the President.
One mark of the welfare state everywhere has been the gathering of power into the hands of one man. This is no mere unfortunate coincidence; it has been inevitable. Thirty-six years ago the eminent Swedish economist Gustav Cassel explained in a prophetic lecture how “planned economy,” long enough continued, must lead to despotism:

The leadership of the State in economic affairs which advocates of Planned Economy want to establish is, as we have seen, necessarily connected with a bewildering mass of government interferences of a steadily cumulative nature. The arbitrariness, the mistakes and the inevitable contradictions of such policy will, as daily experience shows, only strengthen the demand for a more rational coordination of the different measures and, therefore, for unified leadership. For this reason Planned Economy will always develop into Dictatorship.

The succeeding chapters of this book explain in detail the ideology and methods behind the present inflation and aggrandizement of State power, the conditions to which it has led and, finally, the solutions we must apply if this sinister threat—not only to the economic future of the American people but to the future of civilization itself—is to be averted.

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