Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on the Borderline Tyranny of the Left and Right


If there was ever any doubt that the totalitarian temptation identified by economist and Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek in his brilliant tract, "The Road to Serfdom," is alive and well, even in this sweet land of liberty, two current crusades of the left and the right ought to put it to rest, noted Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her column at The Daily last week.

Hayek's genius was to recognize that eliminating feudalism and monarchy didn't mean that the West had eliminated the danger of tyranny. Modern-day central planners restricting the peaceful, voluntary activity of individuals in the name of achieving some grand collectivist end open up new dangers. Since their plans inevitably leave individuals worse off, people find ever-new ways to circumvent them.

But the government doesn't take its failure as a sign that there might be something wrong with its ends — that perhaps they are out of sync with the normal aspirations of people. Rather, it blames the failure on an insufficient use of force. Thus an initial round of coercion inevitably spawns subsequent, even harsher rounds, putting the country on Hayek's "road to serfdom."

It is exactly this logic that's unfolding in the right's crusade to get rid of illegal Mexican labor in the name of national sovereignty — and the left's crusade to redistribute wealth in the name of social justice.

Read the whole thing here and enjoy Memorial Day!

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  1. The last time the powres admitted a mistke was the repeal of alcohl prohibition.Since that time every program or law that has not achived it’s goal has been either broadened or given more money.I give you the wars on drugs,’terror and fat people

    1. Dude, you might want to have a couple more cups of coffee.

      1. I think I’ll switch to lager

    2. The War on Fat People being especially ironic to me, seeing their low-fat high-carbohydrate dietary advice was instrumental in making me obese. Eating carbohydrate makes blood sugar. My body makes insulin to lower blood sugar. Where does my blood sugar go? Insulin sends it to my fat. I gain weight. Thanks, USDA, with your Food Pyramid’s 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta! “My Plate,” you say? Fats are completely missing from the graphic. The website even says, “Oils are NOT a food group” and then barely mentions solid fats on the bottom of the same page. Never mind what anatomically modern humans ate for 100,000 years before agriculture, or what the various makers of sharp rocks ate for 2 or 3 million years before that, fats must be bad for you. Sheesh!

      1. I am also convinced that the government forcing companies to use corn syrup as sweetener had a lot to do with it.

        I don’t buy the notion that people are any different today than they were 50 years ago. Sorry, but I am not believing that people in the 1950s were somehow more virtuous and disciplined. I don’t think people have changed, I think the food has. And most of that change is because of the government.

        1. I blame getting rid of recess in elementary school and “smear the queer” that we use to play during recess

          1. With PC in full force these days, what would they call it, “Spay the gay?”

            1. They told us to stop playing it in school. So we started calling it rugby. Same game, different name.

        2. High fructose corn syrup is just vastly cheaper than sugar. The only difference is the 55-45 (vs 50-50) ratio and the fact it’s missing an ester bond between the fructose and glucose, something the gut breaks instantly. To the body sugar is sugar, whether it comes from cane or corn or bees.

          The problem is that when remove the fat, it tastes like cardboard. (That’s your body asking you where the fat is.) To make it taste like anything, they fill it up with sugar. And it is in virtually everything. Try finding bread without sugar in it. Hell, try finding a turkey without sugar in it. It can be done, but it takes reading.

          I lost enough weight to take a foot (12″) off my pants size. And don’t talk to me about all the willpower it took. I don’t have enough to mention. I did it by realizing we are not designed to be herbivores, and even herbivores are designed to eat pretty much the whole plant, not just the grain. For several million years our ancestors ate fatty bone marrow and fatty organ meats, and the fatty rib meats first. Our longer digestive tract allows us to be omnivores, but the design of it says we’re carnivores.

          1. Well, of course corn syrup is cheaper than cane sugar. We tariff cane sugar and subsidize corn syrup. They keep fucking with the economics of supply and demand. Fucking despots.

            Anywho, I prefer stevia to either of those. I can grow that shit at home.

            1. Allergic to stevia. Yeah, corn is heavily subsidized. I mostly wish they’d take it out of my gas. Couldn’t believe all the gum in the carburetor on my ancient generator last time I had to run it.

          2. What Rantin said. Corn syrup is only cheaper because the government subsidizes corn and puts tariffs on sugar.

            1. Yep, why do you think they feed corn to cattle instead of hay? Or just let them graze? Yeah, it’s that subsidized.

              But my point was that the crap is in damnear (I’m declaring a new word) everything.

    3. 55mph speed limit

      1. Hated the double nickle. Glad to see it dying.

        1. It’s still alive and well here in Oregon. I miss the 70 and 75mph limits that Nevada had. Oh, and being able to pump my own damn gas.

          1. New Jersey’s the only place I’ve run into the “no self-serve” bit.
            Union protectionism as I understand it.

            1. Here it’s just a make-work program. AFAIK the gas jockeys aren’t unionized.

    4. That’s not true at all. For a stark example of a rapid turnaround, consider catastrophic health insurance, which was to be funded by an earmarked tax — it was repealed before it even went into effect! And that was just in the 1980s.

      Military drafts have been enacted and repealed. The ban on ownership of gold was repealed. Hell, even the goddamn Berlin Wall came down! How many examples do you need?

  2. Borderline?

    Sorry, Ms. Dalmia, we’ve crossed it a long time ago.

    1. You disappoint me…I expected a Ry Cooder clip.

  3. A better example is the War on Drugs.

    I doubt that even Nixon would have approved of armed thugs kicking in doors, in the middle of the night, and shooting up housed; to ‘fight’ marijuana. Or sanction the groping of grannies and toddlers at airports to fight terrorism.


    This just in, the Daily Kos guy is a fucking fascist moron.

    1. Can’t say that I exactly get the pith at that link but the 8:32 link in the comments has some pretty good fisking of DU commenters.

    2. Water is wet. The Pope inclines toward Catholicism. Bears tend to defecate in forested areas.

  5. People are tribal and naturally authoritarian. It is just how they are. They get wrapped up in these issues that they really have no personal stake in as a way to beat up the other team.

    Gay marriage is a good example. I have numerous straight, liberal friends I have known for years who never exhibited any interest in gay rights or gay causes. That is until gay marriage became the cause de jour. And now it seems to be the most important political issue in the world to them.

    Now, I don’t disagree with them about gay marriage. But I can’t help but wonder if gay rights were like 100th on your list of priorities in 1999, why is it now some big pressing deal in 2012? Mostly I think it is different in 2012 because gay marriage has become the fashionable way to beat up on the other team and show your team pride.

    Not that conservatives don’t do the same thing. It is just how people are.

    1. People are tribal and naturally authoritarian. It is just how they are.

      Nope. The whole public school system was designed to guide people that way to suit the management fads of Victorian Industrialization. They thought they needed people to be mindless robots to work the assembly lines.

      1. People were tribal and authoritarian for most of human history. You had to be to survive. Really until the invention of the personal firearm, individualism was a recipe for death or enslavement.

        1. In other words they were forced into it, not that it came naturally.

      2. They thought they needed people to be mindless robots to work the assembly lines.

        Again, note the secret dark core at the heart of the liberal agenda: We the Little People {[TM], (c), patent pending} exist for the sole purpose of producing to generate tax revenue for the state.

        In other words they were forced into it, not that it came naturally.

        Yeah, ^THIS^

        1. I live to serve my own ends, you live to serve yours, but they can’t abide it.

    2. And now it seems to be the most important political issue in the world to them.

      I ran for state rep in MO in the 1990s on the LP ticket, my three planks being elimination of many professional licensing requirements, privatization of worker’s comp and…gay marriage. The same people that would rip your head off today for opposing gay marriage laughed at me then.

      1. Missouri had state run Workers Comp?

    3. Not only that, but whole swaths of ideology get characterized by where they stand on the edge issue du jour. Everybody drops consider’n of everything else, and determines “which side you’re on” by where you stand on an issue that hardly anybody was thinking about a few yrs. earlier, and that will be mostly forgotten in a few. And the really funny thing is that they act as if there’s this scale that all ideology lies on, and the needle is at this issue now, and that the order of issues on that scale will remain the same once the needle moves past it in either direction, notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary.

  6. For years I’ve heard, “If you don’t like it, leave.” Now I’m being told that I can’t really leave either.

    1. Oh, you can leave. They just need their pound of flesh first.

      1. I always heard “you can’t take it with you.” Now they want to make it law!

      2. Personally, whatever portion for which I couldn’t find a way around that law would be spent on shipping open trucks full of fresh chicken shit to Pennsylvania Avenue on a hot August night.

      3. Oh, and if you leave, watch out for drones.

    2. I just read that a lot of wealthy French are looking for places to plunk their money now that socialists are gunning for it in France and that one of the places they’re looking at is the US of A.

      I’d think that the Obama administration – and particularly Chuckie Schumer – would be dead set against this, given how much they hate rich folks that take money from their home countries. Oh, and one of the places the Frogs are looking to invest is New York.

  7. I wonder if dunphy will come back today after that ass-whipping I gave him yesterday.
    If he does, perhaps we could get him to comment on this. I mean, the man follows policy so we shouldn’t hold him accountable, right? Fucking scumbag.


    This douche bag is going to lose his funding source. What a fucking clown. He had a great gig going. Six figure income as a professional leftist dickhead. And he has now thrown it away because he decided to engage in lawfare with the wrong people.

    1. Counldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  9. It’s a breath of fresh air reading Judith Curry’s site on the environment. She even has a guest blogger who uses REAL ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES to make his argument for natural gas over coal as the better option going forward.

    Let me start by admitting that the future of natural gas is especially difficult to predict. Commodity forecasting is always a pseudo-science at best. At times it seems that its primary function is to make astrology look respectable.

    But America has enormous natural gas resources, roughly a 100 year supply. That supply could be the low cost/low pollution energy source that provides a bridge to a better economic and environmental future. Or it may just sit in the ground for some time.

    After 25 years in the oil and gas business I spent ten years working in public policy and politics. In many ways that made geophysics seem pretty straightforward. But I did learn at least one valuable lesson: In spite of all the flowery words, there is no more powerful force for change than the market.

    But the market doesn’t care about political correctness. The market only cares about supply and demand.

    It’s a looooooooong article so be warned. But it’s VERY informative and acknowledges that unless a particular energy source has market support, it hasn’t a chance of succeeding no matter what kind of government force is put behind it.

  10. North Korea reverts to an old strategy. Purges will continue until morale improves.

    1. Yeah, when you have a few 1950s-era cars running down the 12-lane boulevards of Pyongyang, any accident is likely to be staged. You can always count on the Norks to bring teh crazy in spades.

  11. And is Shikha really trying to equate the collectivization of ever-larger portions of economic life under the clumsy claws of the Central State with enforcement of immigration laws, equating both as “tyranny?” If that’s the case, there isn’t a single nation in the world that isn’t a tyranny.

  12. You bring up The Road to Serfdom, yet one of the key reasons serfdom is no more was because of the Black Plague creating a labor shortage. This meant that serfs had to be paid more to stay or they could find work elsewhere (technically they couldn’t move, but if they snuck away and didn’t get caught, they would become free).

    This is the opposite – by flooding the US with cheap labor, you’re essentially pushing out Americans who have low skill and low pay jobs out of work and onto welfare.

    Yes, maybe it would lower costs of goods, but I don’t see Wal-Mart or McDonalds exactly hurting in terms of profits…

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