Friday, November 14, 2008

The Loss Of Individual Liberty

"All that the nation's founders understood two centuries ago about the imperative of limited government, all that we learned from the long struggle between collectivism and free markets during our own time--all this could soon simply evanesce.

We are being asked to unlearn what we know, to surrender the virtues that can only be acquired in conditions of freedom, and to become a lesser people than we are. The land of the free and the home of the brave could soon be transformed into the land of the dependent and the home of the infantilized.

I may not have seen it at the time, but Milton Friedman was right. The challenge for this generation is to keep our liberty. And the challenge is now upon us."
Earlier in Mr. Robinson's piece he tells us of a conversation over dinner with Milton Friedman which includes this:
I had just re-read God and Man at Yale, the 1951 book in which William F. Buckley Jr., denounced the leftist attitudes he had encountered among the Yale faculty and administration as an undergraduate. Buckley singled out the department of economics as the most collectivist department on the campus. "Today," I said, "nobody would call the economics department at a major university 'collectivist.'"

Academia as a whole may have continued its long, sorry wobble to the left, I continued, but the economics profession had proved an exception, moving the other way. Departments of economics across the country now grasped the importance of free markets. "Mises, Hayek, Stigler and you," I told Friedman. "You've transformed the intellectual climate. You've won."
I suspect it is not true that economics departments across the country have not wobbled to the left. Efficiency economics abounds, and the conceptual framework of economics is static rather than dynamic, and as such, I believe efficiency economics is very far from the economic lessons taught by Hayek and Mises. I suspect that most of economics today falls prey to Hayek's The Fatal Conceit "that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes." Isn't this fatal conceit, after all, the conceptual nature of any discussion that involves the role of government as correcting market failure?

I do agree with Mr. Robinson that it would be a good thing for many of us to decide now is the time to work to save the idea of individual liberty.

[HT: Instapundit]

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