Socialism from the Bottom Up: Where Lawson and Powell Meet Hayek and Buchanan
14 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2020
Date Written: December 9, 2019
What explains the recent resurgence of appeal and popularity of socialism in the United States? Why especially do people today like socialism when history and economics are clear that socialism as actually practiced has had disastrous consequences? These questions are taken up in the book Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World by Benjamin Powell and Robert Lawson. After an entertaining and insightful read through the authors’ journeys, Lawson and Powell conclude that people today don’t favor actual socialism, not socialism as properly understood by economists. Socialism properly understood is the abolition of private property and the central planning of all economic activity. F. A. Hayek in his 1949 paper, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” raises the same question, and concludes that a biased intellectual class manipulates public opinion to support socialism. I then put Lawson, Powell, and Hayek in the context of James Buchanan’s 2005 paper, “Dependency as Desideratum,” which defines and categorizes four distinct but interrelated definitions of socialism. The most fundamental of these is a form of bottom-up socialism, which does not concern itself with collectivizing property rights, but which nonetheless feeds Leviathan.
Keywords: socialism, paternalism, parentalism
JEL Classification: P00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation