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The Road To Paralysis

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The Road To Paralysis

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WASHINGTON — One of my favorite moments during the 2012 Republican presidential contest came when Ron Paul, fresh from his strong showing in Iowa, triumphantly told his supporters: “We’re all Austrians now!”

I imagined many Americans scratching their heads and wondering: Why do we want to be Austrians? They live in a nice country with stunning mountains and all that, but aren’t we perfectly happy to be Americans?

Of course those in the know, particularly Paul’s enthusiasts, understood the libertarian presidential candidate’s reference: that Americans were rejecting the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes that encouraged government intervention and provided intellectual ballast for the New Deal. Instead, they were coming around to the principles of the anti-government economics of Austrians Friedrich A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

Hayek and Mises perceived little difference between democratic governments that used their power to plan against recessions and dictatorships that did the same thing. In this view, the policies of Franklin Roosevelt led down what Hayek called “The Road to Serfdom” and were thus objectively comparable to those of Hitler or Stalin.

At the time, Paul offered some context for his Austrian journey. He was quoting a supporter who had noted a line attributed to President Richard Nixon that “we’re all Keynesians now.” Paul observed that back then, even Republicans “accepted liberal economics.” Those days are gone.

Paul’s words are worth remembering not only because they are entertaining but also because he has a point. To a remarkable degree, our politics are haunted by the principles of Austrian economics and their sweeping hostility to any actions by government to keep downturns from becoming catastrophes or to promote greater economic fairness.

This is, indeed, an enormous change. When Nixon declared his allegiance to Keynesianism, he was reflecting an insight embraced across partisan lines. Government’s exertions, both during the New Deal and more completely during World War II, helped rescue the American economy from depression.

Postwar Keynesian approaches, including the Marshall Plan, let loose an economic juggernaut across the Western world. Secular and Christian parties of the moderate right and social democratic parties of the moderate left created free societies and regulated market economies that delivered the goods — literally as well as figuratively — to tens of millions. (The actual country of Austria, by the way, largely ignored the “Austrian” economists and followed a similar path.)

Those who follow Hayek and Mises would have us forget this history, or rewrite it beyond comprehension. They would also have us overlook that Hayek’s “own historical justification for apolitical market economics was entirely wrong,” as the late Tony Judt put it in Thinking the Twentieth Century, his extraordinary dialogue with his fellow historian Timothy Snyder, published in 2012, after Judt’s death.

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E. J. Dionne

Besides contributing to The National Memo, E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and a university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University.

His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (2013).

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13 Comments

  1. nestazhe265 February 10, 2014

    my uncle recently got a nearly new black
    Volkswagen Touareg SUV by working off of a pc… blog link B­u­z­z­3­2­.­ℂ­o­m

    Reply
  2. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh February 10, 2014

    Kind of like how the supply-siders have yet to prove their model has any success other than making the rich richer.

    Reply
    1. daniel bostdorf February 10, 2014

      The economic model of plutarchs that control the surveillance police
      state oligarchy called the “United States of America” is one of pure
      greed, enslavement of the poor and working class.

      A road to paralysis of human beings forced into economic global slavery.

      Their “economic slavery” is the root of all evils on this planet.

      see my explanation at top….

  3. TZToronto February 10, 2014

    When the discussion turns to economic theory, the vast majority of people tune out completely. When you talk about lowering taxes, people listen. That’s one reason Democrats haven’t talked theory. They need the Secretary of Explaining Stuff to go through the theory so that people will listen and understand why the hands-off-the-economy approach doesn’t work.

    Reply
  4. daniel bostdorf February 10, 2014

    Ej is dead on with this summary:
    “….source of gridlock in Washington: Too many conservatives are operating
    on the basis of theories that history and practice have discredited. And
    liberals have been more reluctant than they should be to call the
    ideological right on this,”

    Economic theories that were turned into realities created an upward mobile global middle class.

    EJ again states it: “Postwar Keynesian approaches, including the Marshall Plan, let loose an
    economic juggernaut across the Western world. Secular and Christian
    parties of the moderate right and social democratic parties of the
    moderate left created free societies and regulated market economies that
    delivered the goods — literally as well as figuratively — to tens of
    millions.”

    Another road to paralysis is that the American electorate were duped by the GOP/Teaparty/Koch/Rove in 2010, and we have suffered ever since the consequences of that American voters mistake.

    Praralysis is only allowed to happen if mainstream America demands that it stops. In 2014, we have a chance to stop it by turning the House and Senate into complete control by the Democrats.

    Otherwise….the road to paralysis will be a road to a worsening economy at the hands of the GOP financed by the Koch brothers.

    Reply
  5. 4sanity4all February 10, 2014

    Perhaps some Tea Partiers have an economic model, but I think most of them are not such deep thinkers. I think most of them are just greedy, resentful children who have dreams of being fabulously wealthy some day, and they want the system rigged so they can keep it all, every cent. They demonize people who need a hand as lazy and unwilling to work, even in the face of statistics proving that there are few good jobs available. The fact that they are uncritical of corporations who pay so little that their employees qualify for government subsidies, and they see no connection between denying birth control with a higher abortion rate, clearly demonstrates that deep thinking is not something they do.

    Reply
    1. daniel bostdorf February 10, 2014

      The economic model of plutarchs that control the surveillance police state oligarchy called the “United States of America” is one of pure greed, enslavement of the poor and working class.

      A road to paralysis of human beings forced into economic global slavery.

      Their “economic slavery” is the root of all evils on this planet.

      A remarkable foreshadowing of what we are facing in 2014 and beyond was wriiten by Kevin Bales:
      New economy, new slavery
      12 November 1999 (Please note the date of this remarkable dissertation)

      Quoting Disposable People:
      “Where once there was “old” slavery, based around the legal ownership of other human beings, there is now, according to Kevin Bales, “new” slavery, where “the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation” is the norm. This change is intimately related to the advent of a truly global economy, in which producers and consumers exist at even further remove from each other. Here, profit is the sole driving force behind the enslavement of people who are now victimized not because of their race, but because of their vulnerability: they are enslaved simply because they can be, their servitude no longer legitimated by reference to any standard of civilization but maintained by their poverty and illiteracy, the corruption of public authorities, and the ever-present threat of violence. In Bales’s words, this new slavery is “faceless, temporary, highly profitable, legally concealed, and completely ruthless”.”

      More here:
      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/new-economy-new-slavery/160647.article

      The 1-3% that own 93% of this planet simply want to own it all, and force this planet into global “new world order” slavery.

      It isn’t faceless anymore….It’s the GOP/TEaparty….and especially Rand Paul .

  6. Sand_Cat February 10, 2014

    But they (the GOP) are all Austrians. Or most of them, anyway. The author just has the wrong Austrian in mind: think fuehrer rather than economist.

    Reply
    1. daniel bostdorf February 10, 2014

      Interesting analogy…

  7. Stuart February 10, 2014

    Just intellectual claptrap for racism — apparently, the word that can never be spoken.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 February 10, 2014

      There is racism, to be sure. But, I think this is more elitism. The idea, that there are necessarily two sets of rules. One set for the monied elite, who assume the Right to literally leverage their way into insolvency, if they want. On the insane premise, that any item they so choose can be inflated to infinite levels. Who cares? That games may be played with enormous sums, and the financial health of the world is entrusted to them to use, or ruin, for their own enrichment, as they see fit. This is their set of rules. Of course, there was no talk of Austria on that glorious morning in Washington, as these Captains of the Grand Estate of Capitalism, flew in on their Gulf-streams, and sashayed up to Capital Hill, to get their piece of the Socialist pie. Not one word of Marx, nor Lenin, nor the dangers of government interference into the free market was dared to be uttered, as their checks were quickly cut, and doled out. Hey! How about a drink at the Senate Retreat? What a different set of rules it is, for the single Mother, her children around her in a less than warm government provided project. Or the unemployed Family, their home on the foreclosure list, the stabbed in the back Veteran, on a two year waiting list. The factory worker idled, his job sent to slave labor, in a world where the common man gets all the freedom, and liberty he can afford. The powers that warn him of government entitlements that are threatening to drive this wonderful Country off a financial cliff!
      Write your Congressman Joe! Tell him to cut off the free loaders,
      the illegal immigrants, soaking up your hard earned tax dollars!
      Tell him, to cut ’em off! This is America where we work for a living!

  8. johninPCFL February 10, 2014

    In the early years of the 20th century before the FDA, radium concoctions of all sorts were pedalled on the public. There was no objective evidence of good or bad (cancer takes years to develop), so parents fed the crap to their kids. One of the socialist characteristics of the current government policies is that a drug mst be proven (by the developer) as worth a crap before it can be sold.
    One wonders if Rand or Ron has ever thought of those kinds of things. Oh, I forgot. Everyone’s on their own and the company will simply fail if they deliver bad products. Of course, all the dead bodies in the radium cases couldn’t sue, so the company just kept on rolling…

    Reply
    1. JSquercia February 10, 2014

      Not to mention a Court System rigged in favor of corporations that applies to all court up to the Supreme

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