Obama, Central Planning, and the Absence of Real Change

I recently decided to put my thoughts down on paper about President Obama’s relationship to central planning and authoritarianism, and the complete lack of actual change under the current administration.  Check it out below and see if you agree, I’d love to hear any comments/critiques, as I’m once again going to be assaulting the student newspaper here at Wake Forest with weekly editorials once school starts up again in the fall, and I’m always looking for the best way to get across ideas about the real nature of our government.


One of the toughest questions I try to deal with when watching President Obama is whether or not he believes what he says. Does he truly think that he embodies pervasive change?  On the other hand, does he in fact understand that his inflationary “stimulus” policies, which have been tried and tried again with complete disregard for any sound economic reasoning, will lead straight to the rise of tyranny, the (increased) police state, and massive destruction of private wealth? 

In the first case he is a government-worshipping zealot, in the second an idealist Marxian tyrant who thinks he can determine the course of history by disregarding reason and putting his trust in things like “hope” and “vision for the future.” I am not exactly certain which of these two is preferable, but regardless I frankly do not know if an answer to this question is attainable. Rather I will focus on what I do know: that we are currently servile to a government engaged in central economic planning, and that this is a road which leads directly to authoritarianism. 

Barack Obama is far from the only person to blame in our current march towards dictatorship. As David Hume wisely stated, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once,” and this has certainly been the case in the United States for over a century. While a few outstanding culprits who come to mind include Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and George W. Bush, the simple fact is that the American state has been expanding at an enormous rate for more than 100 years. 

However, I can no more go back in time and change the actions of past bureaucrats than I can delve into the inner mind of President Obama.  Thus the only course which remains is to unmask before the people the charade of a reformer who currently occupies our country’s highest office.  Despite his claims of “change,” Barack Obama is merely the latest cog in the great American authoritarian machine. 

Put simply, Barack Obama and his band of “economists” believe that unrestrained free markets have led us to our current economic woes.  As historian Howard Zinn misguidedly wrote in the May 2009 issue of The Progressive, “Leave things to the market, and there are two million people homeless…there are millions and millions of people who can’t pay their rent…there are thirty-five million people who go hungry.”  In the interest of space, the absurdity of this argument must be left for another day (for an immediate dissection, I recommend Thomas Wood’s Meltdown). What I wish to focus on is the inherent danger involved in Obama’s proposed and currently active solution. 

What we are seeing is essentially the resurgence of central planning. How ironic it is that Obama, the champion of “change,” is resorting to an age old economic doctrine which always originally draws popular support, always leads to a rise in the authoritarian state, and always ultimately fails. 

Examples of the willful ignorance in accepting the futility of central planning abound in our own history, so we should not be too surprised to see the same characteristic alive and well in President Obama. For instance, in 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt, another president who mistakenly treated the symptoms of a recession instead of understanding its cause, established the National Planning Board, an institution whose name leaves no need for an explanation of its purpose. The board specifically looked to the examples of four countries who had previously engaged in economic planning: Germany, Japan, Russia, and Italy. 

The reader should need no reminder of the course which each of these countries took over the next ten years, all becoming totalitarian states, each sporting its own particular brand of fascism. And yet both in that time and ours, the disciples of this Keynesian doctrine refuse to acknowledge its involvement in such developments. Alvin Hanson, a government-employed Keynesian, boldly stated in 1945 that these countries each came to totalitarianism by entirely different roads. One would expect such a statement from an apologist for a religion, but not from an economist countering academic critiques of his position. 

Today, instead of Roosevelt’s National Planning Board, we have Barack Obama’s czars, an endless chain of governmental departments and agencies, and a central banking system which is more than willing to create for any and all of these every dollar for which they ask. Whether it be the $8,849,000 allocated to North Carolina for an efficient energy rebate program, the $9,516,325 given to Smartronix, Inc. for the design and operation of a new Recovery.gov website, or the $25,000,000 allocated to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission – just to name a few of literally thousands of programs – one thing should be abundantly clear:  There is nothing different about the “change” which has come to our government. It is the same inflation-fueled quest for power in which governments capitalize on their citizens’ fears which has existed since before anyone currently alive on this earth was born. 

The key reason for opposing such doctrines, aside from their economic absurdity, is their necessary destruction of individual rights and freedoms under an authoritarian system of planning.  While such projects always promise increased freedom for the individual from whatever economic woes he endures, the fact is that this very individual simply becomes a means to be employed by the planner for the government’s chosen ends.  

F.A. Hayek understood the outcome of central planning in 1944 when he wrote that “the individual would more than ever…be used by the authority in the service of such abstractions as ‘social welfare’ or the ‘good of the community.’”  Many are calling for more government interference in the economy on the basis that things need to be “set right.”  

Along with the dangers of proclaiming such abstract ends without giving sufficient thought to the means, we must remind ourselves of what government is in order to see the danger in this proposition:  an institution which enforces its ruling either by men armed with deadly weapons or by the threat of action by exactly such a force.  When a central planning authority like we now have is allowed to dictate to the population how resources are to be allocated, one has only two options: obey, or face violent coercion which will either force the individual to obey or simply imprison those who refuse to comply.  As Ludwig von Mises wrote of planning in his Magnus opus Human Action, “The authority issues orders and everybody is forced to obey.”

Some may say that the absence of government interference into our current economic problems will lead to a further economic decline.  This is certainly true.  When misallocation is encouraged on the scale which it has been for the past decades, liquidation of non-productive resources is absolutely essential to the future health of the economy, and this implies a time of hardship.  However, should we not cut our losses and preserve our liberty rather than allow our government to chip away at our freedoms while making what could be a short depression into a long, drawn out period of hardship?  

We are extremely fortunate in knowing that in casting off the burden of government we both lay the foundations for future prosperity and restore to ourselves the natural right of self-determination.  This knowledge makes it our duty to fight with every fiber of our being the authority which reaches out its hand to take from us our rights – rights that existed before the advent of government, rights that exist despite the planners’ current insistence that we must sacrifice liberty for security and fortune, and rights that will exist long after we have left such doctrines in the ruins of what will be considered a primitive and backwards past.

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