Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hayek And Will On Socialist Thugocracies

Speaking of the rise of the socialist state, with its forced nationalizations and growth in power of the unions in post WWII Britain, author FA Hayek wrote:

The most serious development is the growth of a measure of arbitrary administrative coercion and the progressive destruction of the cherished foundations of British liberty, the Rule of Law . . . [T]he attempts at economic planning under the Labour government carried it to the point where it is doubtful whether it can be said that the Rule of Law prevails in Britain. . . . It is a despotism exercised by a thoroughly honest and conscientious bureaucracy for what they sincerely believe is the good of the country. . . .

Our modern day Mr. Hayek may well be George Will, who is emerging as the most cogent of observers of the Obama regime and its emerging practice of heavy handed tactics that mirror those which occurred in post WWII Britain. As Mr. Will observes, our new President is ruling this country with "a tincture of lawlessness."

This from Geoge Will, writing at the Washington Post:

. . . In February, California's Democratic-controlled Legislature, faced with a $42 billion budget deficit, trimmed $74 million (1.4 percent) from one of the state's fastest-growing programs, which provides care for low-income and incapacitated elderly people and which cost the state $5.42 billion last year. The Los Angeles Times reports that "loose oversight and bureaucratic inertia have allowed fraud to fester."

But the Service Employees International Union collects nearly $5 million a month from 223,000 caregivers who are members. And the Obama administration has told California that unless the $74 million in cuts are rescinded, it will deny the state $6.8 billion in stimulus money.

Such a federal ukase (the word derives from czarist Russia; how appropriate) to a state legislature is a sign of the administration's dependency agenda -- maximizing the number of people and institutions dependent on the federal government. For the first time, neither sales nor property nor income taxes are the largest source of money for state and local governments. The federal government is.

The SEIU says the cuts violate contracts negotiated with counties. California officials say the state required the contracts to contain clauses allowing pay to be reduced if state funding is.

Anyway, the Obama administration, judging by its cavalier disregard of contracts between Chrysler and some of the lenders it sought money from, thinks contracts are written on water. The administration proposes that Chrysler's secured creditors get 28 cents per dollar on the $7 billion owed to them but that the United Auto Workers union get 43 cents per dollar on its $11 billion in claims -- and 55 percent of the company. This, even though the secured creditors' contracts supposedly guaranteed them better standing than the union.

Among Chrysler's lenders, some servile banks that are now dependent on the administration for capital infusions tugged their forelocks and agreed. Some hedge funds among Chrysler's lenders that are not dependent were vilified by the president because they dared to resist his demand that they violate their fiduciary duties to their investors, who include individuals and institutional pension funds.

The Economist says the administration has "ridden roughshod over [creditors'] legitimate claims over the [automobile companies'] assets. . . . Bankruptcies involve dividing a shrunken pie. But not all claims are equal: some lenders provide cheaper funds to firms in return for a more secure claim over the assets should things go wrong. They rank above other stakeholders, including shareholders and employees. This principle is now being trashed." Tom Lauria, a lawyer representing hedge fund people trashed by the president as the cause of Chrysler's bankruptcy, asked that his clients' names not be published for fear of violence threatened in e-mails to them.

The Troubled Assets Relief Program, which has not yet been used for its supposed purpose (to purchase such assets from banks), has been the instrument of the administration's adventure in the automobile industry. TARP's $700 billion, like much of the supposed "stimulus" money, is a slush fund the executive branch can use as it pleases. This is as lawless as it would be for Congress to say to the IRS: We need $3.5 trillion to run the government next year, so raise it however you wish -- from whomever, at whatever rates you think suitable. Don't bother us with details.

. . . The Obama administration's agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of "economic planning" and "social justice" that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration's central activity -- the political allocation of wealth and opportunity -- is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.

Read the entire article. I could not agree more. Not only is the Obama administration displaying overt corruption, but it is of a kind that will have long term ramifications. Those industries in which Obama has inserted his malign influence may well find the cure more toxic than their original economic problems, particularly when they try to raise capital and lure private investment.


Debbie said...

George Will is being polite when he says "is ruling this country with "a tincture of lawlessness.""

It's more like 'selective breeding', but instead of selecting which breeds of animals will survive, the Obama administration is selecting which companies, which executives, which individuals may survive.

It's getting scary. We have leaders who are speaking out ... well we have writers and talkers who are speaking out, I don't see the politicians speaking out.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

GW said...

True, our congressional republicans seem congenitally unable to speak out forcefully on any given issue. It really is a travesty - and one that I have been hollering about since day 1 on this blog.