More Hayek (and Buchanan), Less Keynes

Thom Lambert —  4 February 2009

Dick Armey has a nice op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. The piece, titled Washington Could Use Less Keynes and More Hayek, echoes points I made recently in criticizing the stimulus and advising President Obama on good stuff to read. Armey writes:

Sound money policy, [Hayek argued], allowed the disparate knowledge of millions of economic actors to be conveyed through the price system, rationally allocating capital and labor through relative prices. The problem with government attempts to manipulate the economy through fiscal policy — spending that takes resources away from those who are productive and redistributes it to politically favored interests — is that it is audacious. It assumes that government knows better how to spend and invest than individuals acting in their families’ best interest.

“The real question,” according to Hayek, “is not whether man is, or ought to be, guided by selfish motives but whether we can allow him to be guided in his actions by those immediate consequences which he can know and care for or whether he ought to be made to do what seems appropriate to somebody else who is supposed to possess a fuller comprehension of the significance of these actions to society as a whole.”

Armey also reminds us to heed the insights of public choice:

A father of public choice economics, Nobel laureate James Buchanan, argues that the great flaw in Keynesianism is that it ignores the obvious, self-interested incentives of government actors implementing fiscal policy and creates intellectual cover for what would otherwise be viewed as self-serving and irresponsible behavior by politicians. It is also very difficult to turn off the spigot in better economic times, and Keynes blithely ignored the long-term effects of financing an expanded deficit.

Good stuff.

Thom Lambert


I am a law professor at the University of Missouri Law School. I teach antitrust law, business organizations, and contracts. My scholarship focuses on regulatory theory, with a particular emphasis on antitrust.

One response to More Hayek (and Buchanan), Less Keynes


    Hmm, wasn’t it the neo-Hooverism (Hayekism) of deregulation that got us into this mess in the first place?

    And hasn’t Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman argued very forcefully that we need government spending to have any hope at escaping the economic tailspin? I’d put my money with Krugman over Dick Army any day of the week.