We are told that today is our generation's Sputnik moment. Once again America has fallen behind and we need decisive government action in order to catch up.
There are differences between our circumstances and the challenges that faced the generation of the 1960s. Since capitalism has prevailed over socialism in the 20th century, today's enemy is not defined along ideological lines. Now it is about market shares. Obviously we cannot leave market outcomes to market forces. What we need, according to some of our leaders, is an elaborate central plan designed to steer our nation's productive efforts and resources in a way to achieve our social goals.
It is commendable that our president promises to eliminate the subsidies for the big oil corporations but it is not fine and dandy to replace them with subsidies for their competitors. Discussing the incompatibility of democracy with social engineering that aims to rig the price mechanism, Friedrich Hayek explains that any economic plan needs a "unitary conception." (I guess that ours is "Win the future.") But a political leader who sees himself as a general and the economy as a battlefield where he should mobilize his troops for the achievement of a supreme goal runs the risk of either frustrating the electorate with empty promises or turning himself into a dictator and imposing his preferences on everyone.
It is tragic to see how those who strongly oppose totalitarianism consistently vote for leaders and policies that can only destroy their cherished democracies and personal freedoms. They want to let the government plan our lives, confident that the results will be good since we can always vote incompetence and corruption out of office. They want us to agree on central planning without agreeing on the ends, to take a journey together without agreeing where we want to go. Collectivists want to feed us cow pies believing they are chocolate cakes.