The blathering classes often feast on the foibles of second term administrations, and Pres. Obama’s comeuppance is now. Some suspect Obama had a direct hand in the various scandals given that they all served his reelection interests. Maybe, but the safer bet is on a Chicago-style culture of intimidation and dirty politics that Obama and his friends brought to the White House in 2009. In any event, Obama is in the soup, and the disillusioned want to know why. F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom offers an explanation – a system where people give up rights and responsibilities to a central power attracts and breeds corruption.
Since Hayek was a famous economist and Keynes’s nemesis, readers might be surprised that Road was a political piece. Written at the height of WWII, when the best minds were either apologists or supporters of Stalin, Hayek showed that Hitler and Stalin were the same beast. Hitler, Stalin, and later Mao, and Pol Pot were the predictable outcomes of people abdicating their rights and responsibilities. Socialism might breed economic stagnation, but it also opens the door to corruption and tyranny.
As Thomas Sowell said, these people were “replacing what worked with what sounded good.” Nothing sounds as good as fairness and taking care of people, which is why everyone from Marx to FDR to Obama used the same rhetoric of social justice. Taking care of people and being taken care of sounds nice, but the ultimate price of centralizing power is corruption or worse.
The fact that the Obama administration engaged in corruption with a whiff of political motivation is not unusual. Every time an administration is caught abusing its powers, people seem surprised, but about half of recent presidents have used the IRS to attack their enemies. The surprise should be that anyone remains surprised.
The nation that cast off the chattels of royal power has now allowed itself to become subject to a permanent class of rulers operating outside of their rights. Since Solomon, people responded to abuses of power by hoping for a good king, a rare blessing. The US’s Founders, however, realized the solution was to have no king at all. When Obama, like many presidents before him, was caught abusing his power, the press called for a good king when the answer was to reduce king’s power. If the IRS is a tool of abuse, eliminate it, do not reform it.
The primary task of tyrannical governments is to convince their subjects of their necessity. Not surprisingly, the IRS focused its wrath on those who challenged its necessity. In Washington, maintaining power is a goal by itself. With each new scandal or failure, the scope of government is increased, not cut. Punishing individuals for corruption cannot cure what Hayek realized is a system designed for abuse.