Tom Palmer

Tom G. Palmer writes frequently on matters of political economy.

Why the Worst Now?

The Road to Serfdom’s publication was one of the intellectual and political turning points of the 20th century. The bloom was starting to come off the rose of socialism and Hayek explained why—in clear, crisp, and precise language and in a spirit of respect for those who had believed or still believed in socialism. I’m grateful to Greg Weiner for providing both a stimulating Liberty Forum essay and an occasion to reread Hayek’s 1944 book, which I found even more compelling than I did when I first read it more than three decades ago. I also found it surprisingly relevant…

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In response to: He Tried to Warn Us

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We Might Need a Prince of the Potomac

Within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s 1984 shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Trump’s America is not Big Brother’s Oceania or Airstrip One. (Hillary Clinton’s America would not have been, either.) But however far Orwell’s dystopia is from becoming our reality, it’s good for Americans to reacquaint themselves with his warnings.…

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Father Knows Best

In many key respects, F.A. Hayek’s fears that the modern social-democratic welfare state would lead to totalitarianism did not come to pass. Even soft despotism seems only to have been partially realized. However, rereading The Road to Serfdom in the opening days of Donald Trump’s presidency offers an uncomfortable glimpse of where our national politics…

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The Politics of Dependency

William Voegeli’s Liberty Forum essay reminds us of the absurdity of so much American political discourse of the past 60 years. The call for greater state-mandated redistribution and entitlements in order to “oppose the drift into the homogenized society” and “fight spiritual unemployment,” to combat “loneliness and boredom” and “build a richer life of mind and spirit” sounds comical, even pathetic after decades in which those policies created atomized societies, emptied out inner cities, and fueled violence, poverty, and despair. The solution to all of those problems, manifestly caused by the very entitlement programs of the Great Society, was, of…

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Wind in the Willows

With the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s “Great Society” speech fast approaching, we are seeing a flood of historical remembrance and analysis, and there will be more in the weeks and months ahead. The television historians and talking heads will be swooning over how much was accomplished by an 89th Congress that was, in the…

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The Great Exception

The 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech offers us an opportunity to reflect not just on the speech itself but also on the half century of consequences that have followed in the wake of the grand project it announced. As William Voegeli notes in his Liberty Forum essay, he commencement address Johnson delivered to the…

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The Protean Welfare State: A Response to David Conway

It’s always nice to read a review of one’s work and it’s usually a good idea to steel oneself for the criticisms that any work ought to invite.  Everything I’ve ever written or edited could have been better.  Criticism is a good thing.  And so are responses.  So here goes.

I was a bit puzzled by David Conway’s review of my modest book After the Welfare State, because he seems to have read different essays from those I wrote.  He claims that I have discredited classical liberalism by making several statements that I am rather confident he has misunderstood and thus mischaracterized.

First, one man’s “hyperbole” is another man’s urgency.  The crisis of unfunded liabilities is a rather serious matter.  The Greek situation, which brought to parliament both communist and fascist parties, not to mention rioters to the streets, should wake us all up.  At least, so I would think.  But even if we set aside the situation in Greece and focus on the US or Northern Europe, the fiscal imbalances (i.e., the present value of the unfunded liabilities of the state, which represents the difference between anticipated taxes and anticipated expenditures under current law), amount to a whopping 500% or more of GDP in a number of wealthy countries, such as the Netherlands and the US, and up to 1,550% in Poland.

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