By John Morton
In his post of May 30, Jonathan makes a good case that Hayek believed the state should provide a minimum level of assistance to individuals who cannot guard themselves. He clearly says in The Road to Serfdom, “There can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody.” (Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, p. 133) Hayek also says his opposition to planning should not be confused with “a dogmatic laissez faire attitude.” (p. 41)
However, it’s a big jump to think Hayek would be a supporter of a growing welfare state, single-payer health insurance, or Obamacare. In his essay on “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” his thesis is that no planner can match the efficiency of a decentralized market because what is known by a single person is a small fraction of the knowledge held by all members of society. To act on the belief that planners know enough to shape “the processes of society to our liking, knowledge which we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”
Obamacare and the possible Trumpcare make his point. Obamacare is a Rube Goldberg machine. It makes every aspect of heathcare more complex. It’s a fantasy that a single-payer system would work more smoothly than a market-based system.
Instead, let’s just try a minimum income and allow people to decide where to spend their income. It’s a novel idea.