LBJ’s Great Society as Hubris of the Social Engineer

January 24, 2014 in News by The Manimal

Source: Freedom4um

By Richard Ebeling

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Free Market Agenda for a Truly Great Society

The free market agenda for a truly great society was for people to have the liberty to make their own decisions, find and take advantage of their opportunities, and have the latitude and incentive to design their own lives, according to their own conception of the good, desirable, and worthwhile. Government controls, regulations, redistributions, and handouts were the opposite of the direction needed for America . . .

Benefiting All Through the Freedom of Each

Free market economists, like Friedrich A. Hayek, explained that there is more knowledge and wisdom dispersed and decentralized in all the minds of all the members of society than can ever be known, integrated, or mastered by even the “best and brightest” who assert their ability to manage, direct, and redesign the complex society in which we live.

That is the advantage and the benefit of the competitive market order: it brings to bear all that there is to know and can be used to improve the condition of society through the informational mechanism of the price system, and the unhindered interactions of supply and demand. Shall we rely upon, and be limited to, what the government regulators, planners, and redistributors are able to know and understand; or shall we be free to utilize and benefit from what all of us can contribute through the institutions and workings of the free market economy?

Liberalism: True and False

And that gets us to our conclusion: What is a just, good and great society? The Great Society advocates of the 1960s argued that theirs was a liberal vision for a better America. But was it?

I suggest that theirs was a false conception of liberalism, and therefore a misguided idea of a free and great society. The real, or true, liberalism, as it took form in the nineteenth century as a political and economic ideal, and an agenda for social reform, emphasized the freedom and rights of the individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. The individual human being was an end in himself, not the tool or means to the coercing will of others possessing political power.

These earlier (or, classical) liberals opposed and helped to do away with absolute monarchy and replace it with representative government. They lead the cause for, and finally triumphed in bringing about, the end to human slavery. They insisted upon civil liberties and equal justice before the law for those whom the older political order had discriminated against, including Jews, religious dissenters, various ethnic and national groups, and women.

They also considered economic liberty – the freedom to own and use private property for consumption and production purposes; to peacefully compete in any trade, profession, or occupation the individual found attractive and advantageous; and to freely enter into any voluntary association and market exchange found to be mutually agreeable, including the terms of trade found acceptable by the traders – to be inseparable from any understanding of and practical existence to human freedom.

The classical liberals considered this also to be a “morally” better society. Why? Because it is based on the idea of respecting the dignity of the individual not to be viewed and treated as a “pawn” (a coerced means) to be manipulated, controlled or restricted by police power, to serve someone else’s preferred ends — even if that “someone else” is a large majority of his fellows in society.