"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain," lamented Thomas Jefferson in the early days of the American Republic when the federal government's role was almost invisible. Considering the growing influence of Washington politics in the lives of all people in the United States during the last two centuries, it seems that the dark warning of our third president was as spot-on as the Austrians' predictions of the Great Depression and the collapse of socialism in Europe. If we look at the centralization of power in D.C. that followed the establishment of the Federal Reserve System and the implementation of the New Deal programs, we need to ask ourselves whether our democracy is doomed to degenerate into some form of humanitarian fascism.
Amazingly, we can find hope in the writings of a man who lived through two world wars, an economist who suffered in hyperinflations and deep recessions. He witnessed the rise of socialism in both its Marxist and nationalistic formats. He was mocked for his unorthodox thinking by the Keynesian establishment during most of his professional career. But he never lost his optimism and passion for freedom. Friedrich Hayek's rebuttal to Thomas Jefferson's bleak prognosis for the land of the free is simple: "In social evolution nothing is inevitable but thinking makes it so."
The fact that great minds like Milton Friedman were able to find a way to convince millions of ordinary people in the validity of free market principles through his "Free to Choose" series in 1980 and the way Ronald Reagan managed to communicate the necessity of his painful economic programs while the country was shaken by double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates proves that the totalitarian tide is reversible. The resurgence of America's interest in the principles of limited government, sound money, and fiscal responsibility in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 is the latest proof that we live in an exceptional country where liberty does not have to yield.