Arnold Kling  

Cato's Voice of Moderation

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Robert Hall Interview... What I'm "Dogmatic" About...

Brink Lindsey reads Arthur Brooks' new book and gives it a thumbs down.


Figuring out how to restore growth and how to construct an effective but affordable safety net, are questions for debate, analysis, and democratic decision-making. My answers to those questions may differ from yours, but dividing up into warring tribes and demonizing each other aren't the ways to figure out who's right.

When Brink says his answers "may differ from yours," he is referring to liberal readers, not to Brooks. Remember that Brink's goal is a fusionism of the left, which he calls liberaltarianism. Brooks is pushing something that looks more like a fusion between the AEI and the Tea Party.

Both projects have problems. I think that the most important phenomenon of our times is that we are living in a Hayekian moment. The specialization, flow, and spread of knowledge are taking place at a breathtaking pace. Large organizations, both public and private, are relatively less well adapted to this environment.

The response on the left has been to ignore the implications of the decentralization of knowledge. Instead, they are regressing to some 1930's Progressive fantasy, in which the answer to every problem is to give wise technocrats the authority of government power. The denizens of the Ruling Class cling tightly to the ideology that keeps them in power, and I do not think there is anything that Lindsey can say that will convince them otherwise.

As for the Tea Party, one can hope that they turn out to be "folk Hayekians," with an intuitive distrust of central planning and confidence in free enterprise and civil society. But there are scenarios in which their influence could prove disastrous. On the issue of limited government, they may prove too weak to effect change but strong enough to cause the Ruling Class to unify in opposition--the left might veto any reform of Social Security in order to avoid being seen as making concessions to the Tea Party. Or the Tea Party may be bought off by an immigration crackdown, leaving other big government policies in place.

Anyway, when a major figure at Cato is attempting to warn a major figure at AEI to moderate his tone, you have to say we are living in interesting times.


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COMMENTS (2 to date)
John Scott writes:

You say, "the left might veto any reform of Social Security in order to avoid being seen as making concessions to the Tea Party."

Are you referring to the SS reform that the public has clamoring for during the last few decades? Are you saying that the left might smash the building tidal wave of support for reform in order to avoid making concessions to the Tea Party?

With love, I propose that you have inadvertently built a straw man. No one has been able to mobilize a significant bloc of support for SS reform. If the Tea Party puts SS reform on the agenda in a significant way, they will be the first.

fundamentalist writes:
the answer to every problem is to give wise technocrats the authority of government power.

Sarah Palin said on Fox TV yesterday that we need better regulation of the oil industry in order to prevent crises like the oil spill in the Gulf, and she is a "leader" of the tea partiers. I don't see that much difference between the tea partiers and the tequila partiers. The tea partiers simply lust for state power in order to achieve their own ends.

The tea partiers remind me of the Reagan "revolution" of the early 1980's. The Republican party promises us smaller government back then, too. Every year we voted for smaller government, yet it grew larger every year under Republican and Democrat leadership. The only difference I can see between the parties is their talk. Republicans proclaim their love for limited government, but always enlarge the state in many ways. At least Democrats are honest.

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