The mechanism underlying Hayek’s Road To Serfdom is the notion that one ill-advised, ad hoc intervention begets another, by way of correcting the failures of the first, leading to a spiral away from the rule of law.
Thus the Washington Post reported this morning,
The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday plans to announce a $12 billion package of emergency aid for farmers caught in the midst of President Trump’s escalating trade war, two people briefed on the plan said, the latest sign that growing tensions between the United States and other countries will not end soon. … The aid package is expected to target soybean farmers, dairy farmers, and pork producers, among others. White House officials hope it will temporarily quiet some of the unease from farm groups, but the new plan could revive debates about taxpayer-funded bailouts and the degree to which Trump’s trade strategy is leading to unforeseen costs.
The news reminds me of a point I made in The Free-market Welfare State:
The countries that avoid the middle-income trap appear to do so by making a transition away from micro-level corruption and favoritism to some semblance of rule of law. This legal transition is mirrored fiscally by a transition to relatively universal social insurance programs, replacing firm-specific bribes and kin-or guild-based support networks with general, rules-based systems of social protection.
Hayek wrote The Road To Serfdom because he believed a compelling enough argument would persuade governments to reverse course, and avoid the temptations of central planning. But being beyond persuasion, the question in this case is whether Congress allows Trump to continue to pursue policies that accelerate an interventionist spiral, or is instead checked by a conservative movement that finally privileges good government over smashing the state.