Which Road Are We On?


So, which road are we on?

The stimulus has passed both Houses now, with the support of only three Republicans, all in the Senate. The trillion dollar bill, which supposedly no one in Congress took the time to read before voting on, flew through Congress in the fast lane, and will be signed into law next week, presumably after the President returns from his President’s Day holiday in Chicago.

As the stimulus marketing campaign came to a close, some other details about the bill have become clear, and there are many indications that it would have been valuable to discuss the merits of the bill’s specific provisions a bit more, rather than wax poetically about  things like “winter”, and “hardship”.

For starters, Connecticut Senator (and savvy mortgage shopper) Christopher Dodd placed provisions in the stimulus bill which sharply restrict executive compensation, a populist avenue that other members of Congress are eager to explore. Then there are the measures within the bill that will likely derail the Welfare Reforms enacted during the Clinton administration, leading to “the largest single increase in government handouts in American history, and likely to recreate an underclass permanently dependent on the Federal Government. And don’t forget the deficit that will be left in the wake of all the stimulus spending; the federal budget deficit, already at record levels, will reach a whopping $1.4 trillion this year.  A pretty big pothole on whichever road we find ourselves, to say the least.

The road metaphor is plain sticking today, and for good reason. At some point in the past, someone made F.A. Hayek’s 1944 classic The Road to Serfdom into a comic strip, and it is now posted online.  The 18 page black and white strip makes for an interesting read in today’s charged political/economic climate, as many have coalesced around the idea of increasing the scale and scope of government’s involvement in the economy. Hayek argued that centralized planning inevitably leads to dystopian tyranny, and this pamplet illustrates his thesis very effectively.

YOU are presumably the Black-Suited Gentlemen
YOU are presumably the Black-Suited Gentlemen

Haayek apparently presumed that the central planners wrote, read, and understood their plan; it is therefore unclear if the “read and understand” part are important to his premise. Also, Hayek’s Serfdom thesis did not take into account the effects that lobbyists reading and editing the plan prior to the central planners would have on the overall outcome. Do the lobbyists inject democracy into the plan, and stave off the dystopian endstate? Probably not.  Regardless of the impact of well-connected lobbyists, or the ignorance of the government planners, once the plan is produced, the government works hard to ensure the it is well-received by all comers.

More Complacent than Controlled, at Least 'til the Fairness Doctrine Kicks In
More Complacent than Controlled, at Least 'til the Fairness Doctrine Kicks In

Under Hayek’s premise, though, the centrally planned economy does not work out so well.

Things Get Worse in the Planned Economy
Things Get Worse in the Planned Economy
Mandatory Volunteerism = Less Time for Golf

And as planning is consolidated, so is power, which turns out REALLY badly in the end for our black-suited gentlemen.


Interestingly enough the government did not print this booklet as a cautionary tale in fear of a red planet; instead it was prepared by a private concern. Check out the company that published this booklet, on the original cover

title-pageYes, General Motors published this strip, presumably to warn workers against the excesses of unions back in the day, but who knows?  These days, whatever road American automotive companies are on, they are several streets away from the one deriding encroachment of the government into private industry.

Thanks For the Bailout Sign on the Road to Serfdom
A "Thanks For the Bailout!" Sign on the Road to Serfdom

So wherever you are these days, make sure you take the time to check the road you’re on, and where it’s headed. Do not be too complacent, or the answer may surprise you.




13 thoughts on “Which Road Are We On?

  1. Yes, but any time you pull the checkbook out to the tune of a cool trillion, it would not hurt to give the fine print a quick read.

    I took the time to do a cursory search of the bill, including the table at the end of it where it detailed the appropriations; there were members of congress who did not even do that much.

  2. I wonder how many Americans feel a passionate attachment to liberty. It all boils down to that. If enough are willing to risk, well, to risk a very great deal in order to remain free, they will retain what freedom is left. If not not. The jury’s out.

  3. This isn’t a bill, its an IOU shopping list. Even calling it a graft bill would be too generous.

    Off topic, but where were the beautiful photos taken?

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