A great amount of learning comes from reading. All the greatest political, economic, or philosophical thinkers of our time began by reading the work of those who came before them. In my case, although my aims may not be as high, I also believe that the best way to increase one’s understanding of the world is through reading. So, I also want to use this blog as a place for me to reflect on the books I’m reading at the moment.
Right now, I’m in the middle of F.A. Hayek‘s The Road to Serfdom. So far, I’ve enjoyed Hayek’s even-tempered analysis of central planning and it’s implausibility. However, what struck me most was his takedown of the stereotype that a classical liberal government act in a “laissez faire” manner with the economy. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable with that doctrine’s possible consequence of allowing private individuals or corporations to distort the free market. For example, industrial companies should pay for dumping waste into public waterways or emitting toxins into the air, but classical laissez faire states that any government policy in response would be burdensome regulation. I agree with Hayek’s view that government intervention helps preserve a free market by correcting for the negative effects that cannot be reflected in price.
Also, I especially enjoyed the section on the role of rule of law in a free society, as opposed to arbitrary governance that will arise from central planning. I feel that adhering to sound principles, though, may be harder to spin politically. Anyone in support of more active government policies can cast it as government “caring” for the people. However, a politician running on principles based on keeping the rule of law may seem like a do-nothing.
Finally, would it be useful for lawmakers to put forth some sort of “modern” rules of law on the economy, criminal justice, social services, etc.? Have they done so already in some other way? Of course we have the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but it’s possible that people see them more symbolically today considering the actions and rhetoric coming from politicians that are accepted by most. If something was explicitly stated as a rule of law, would that have any effect on citizens’ mindset?
Anyway, I have strayed a bit far from Hayek now, but I will post more of my thoughts as I continue reading. Also, I will not just be reading from the classical liberal tradition (which you may have noticed that I subscribe to right now). I want to read from other perspectives to strengthen whatever view of mine that will come forth.