mind your business

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy Hayek's Birthday

If the man were as immortal as his ideas, Friedrich Hayek would be 110 years old today. His words, from The Road to Serfdom, are as relevant today, in a world of bailout and stimulus packages as they were in his day:

It is often said that political freedom is meaningless without economic freedom. This is true enough, but in a sense almost opposite from that in which the phrase is used by our planners. The economic freedom which is the prerequisite of any other freedom cannot be the freedom from economic care which the socialists promise us and which can be obtained only by relieving the individual at the same time of the necessity and of the power of choice; it must be the freedom of our economic activity which, with the right of choice, inevitably carries the risk and the responsibility of that right.

The key words for us today are "the risk and responsibility of that right," concepts that are entirely alien to bailouts or stimulus. Responsibility means consequences. And apparently the Obama administration doesn't believe in consequences, at least not consequences that it doesn't dole out. The question is: are the American people adults or children? Adults have to deal with the consequences of stupid actions. Children are prevented from performing stupid actions, and then parental punishment provides lesser consequences to replace the natural ones. Bailouts and regulation treat business like children. We bail people out when they make bad business decisions, and then try to regulate them to provide some sense of accountability. We are treating them like children! We're babying them! And in doing so we have abandoned one bit more of the freedom which Hayek so rightly noted "inevitably carries the risk and the responsibility of that right."

See, Hayek is always relevant!