Markets vs. Government
By Arnold Kling
Again, this will be the subject of my talk on Thursday evening March 18 at Campbell University. It is also the subject of this podcast featuring Don Boudreaux and Russ Roberts. Boudreaux says that he does not vote, which I am sure will get an adverse reaction. Mostly, the podcast is about taking the romance out of elections and government.
I also downloaded a sample of American Progressivism: a Reader to my Kindle. My guess is that I will not buy the entire book, unless commenters tell me that I have much to learn from it. But my takeaway from the sample is that one hundred years ago progressive thinking was just that–thinking. Today, it is more unconscious.
In the thinking days, apparently there was some explicit argument that the original Constitution was out of step with the times. As the country urbanized and industrialized, as science improved and as economists and others began to call themselves social scientists, progressives argued that limited government was a bad idea. Perhaps government by wise technocrats, unburdened by Constitutional limits, would be better.
Over the past one hundred years, our government has evolved as if this thinking had triumphed. The Constitution does not restrict government the way it was written to do so, and we have a lot of technocratic government. Yet we no longer read of Progressives criticizing the Constitution–perhaps, having gotten their way, they might as well just keep quiet about the Constitution at this point.
Anyway, in the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced, I suggest that there are trends cutting the other way. I argue that concentrated political power is inconsistent with the growth in specialized knowledge. The golden age of central planning was the era of mass industrialization, particularly during the two world wars. Since then, central planning has done poorly. Nonetheless, modern progressives still seem committed to it.