he goal of “limited”—or “constitutional”—government, which Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan and other Mont Pelerin Society grandees had tried to promote and that every “free-market” think-tank today proclaims as its goal, is an impossible goal,
For decades, the limited government movement has been a growth industry. Its annual expenditures currently run in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and billions of dollars likely have been spent in total. All the while, government expenditures never and nowhere fell, not even once, but instead always and uninterruptedly increased to ever more dizzying heights.
And yet, this glaring failure of the industry to deliver the promised good of limited government is not punished but, perversely, rewarded with still more ample funds. The more the think tanks fail, the more money they get.
The State and the free market think tank industry thus live in perfect harmony with each other. They grow together, in tandem.
For limited government advocates such as Hayek and the entire free market think tank industry, this is an embarrassment.
this goal can only be reached if, instead of talking and seeking access to the State, the State is openly ignored, avoided and disavowed; and its agents and propagandists are explicitly excluded from one’s proceedings. To talk to the State and include its agents and propagandists is to lend legitimacy and strength to it. To ostentatiously ignore, avoid and disavow it and to exclude its agents and propagandists as undesirable is to withdraw consent from the State and to weaken its legitimacy.
That is, it would try to reform, and ultimately revolutionize, the ever more invasive welfare-warfare State system from the outside, through the creation of an anti-statist counterculture that could attract a steadily growing number of defectors—of intellectuals, educated laymen and even the much-cited “man on the street”—away from the dominant State culture and institutions.
On the libertarian side, the cooperation with conservatives was motivated by the insight that while libertarianism may be logically compatible with many cultures, sociologically it requires a conservative, bourgeois core culture. The decision to form an intellectual alliance with conservatives then involved for the libertarians a double break with “Establishment Libertarianism” as represented, for instance, by the Washington DC “free market” CATO Institute.
This Establishment Libertarianism was not only theoretically in error, with its commitment to the impossible goal of limited government (and centralized government at that): it was also sociologically flawed, with its anti-bourgeois—indeed, adolescent—so-called “cosmopolitan” cultural message: of multiculturalism and egalitarianism, of “respect no authority”, of “live-and-let-live”, of hedonism and libertinism.
First, a lesson that I had already come away with from my encounter with the Mont Pelerin Society was reinforced: Do not put your trust in politicians and do not get distracted by politics. Buchanan, notwithstanding his many appealing personal qualities, was still at heart a politician who believed in government, above all, as a means of effecting social change.