Klaus Condemns “Social Engineering” in Cato Journal

November/​December 1995 • Policy Report

Czech prime minister Vaclav Klaus, the most accomplished free‐​market leader to emerge during the transition from communism, condemns “all forms of political constructivism and social engineering” in the latest issue of the Cato Journal (vol. 14, no. 2). The transition from plan to market, writes Klaus, “is an evolutionary process and not an exercise in applied economics or political science.” For Klaus, there can be no blueprint for successful transformation. Rather, the Czech experience shows that the process of reform “is a complicated mixture of intentions and spontaneity.”

Viktor Vanberg, professor of economics at the University of Freiburg, defends F. A. Hayek against criticism that he slid into a blind evolutionary theory of institutional and cultural change without any room for human rationality. According to Vanberg, Hayek accepted the importance of “spontaneous order” but also recognized the need for a “rational liberalism” that rests on “rational arguments in favor of the liberal order.” Hayek’s contribution to liberal thought, Vanberg argues, should not be viewed narrowly in terms of the apparent “evolutionary agnosticism” in his final book, The Fatal Conceit.

Gary Anderson, an economist at California State University, Northridge, considers the question of why state constitutions have failed to limit the growth of government. In “The Constitution of Liberty to Tax and Spend,” he notes how “state constitutions (as a group) have become encrusted with pork of almost every variety [as] special interest groups have succeeded in insinuating favorable clauses and amendments.” His analysis implies that sending block grants to the states will not solve the problem of the welfare state. What needs to be done is to limit rent seeking by limiting the power of the political class — a task that requires cultural as well as political change.

Other contributors to the issue include George Berger on “Reforming Deposit Insurance,” Christopher Schnaubelt on “The Military’s Effectiveness in the Drug War,” Adam Thierer on “Development of the Bell System Monopoly,” Bruce Bartlett on “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Kevin Dowd on “The Costs of Inflation and Deflation,” and A. Tabarrok on “A Survey, Critique, and New Defense of Term Limits.”