Cato's Voice of Moderation
By Arnold Kling
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.