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Samuel Gregg finds much to criticize in Joe Stiglitz’s new book, The Road to Freedom. Four slices:

The word “neoliberal” has its own pedigree. Today, however, it functions as an epithet used by the Left—and now the New Right that populates many conservative institutions—to stigmatize people and ideas. The use of epithets is common in polemics, and polemics are not concerned with reasoned debate or discussion. Nor, despite protestations to the contrary, is Stiglitz’s book. From beginning to end, it trades in hyperbole.

“Freedom,” Stiglitz states at the beginning “is in danger.” The global decline of liberty reflected in the rise of authoritarian regimes, he argues, has also manifested itself in liberal democratic societies. By Stiglitz’s account, this reflects failures in economic policies that mirror “the Right’s incorrect conception of freedom.”

“The Right” functions throughout this book as a catch-all phrase. It embraces groups like the Republican Party and as unlikely bedfellows as libertarians and Donald Trump. Important details, like Trump stating that he is “not a conservative” or the undeniable and deep split in the American conservative movement between economic nationalists and free marketers, are obscured by Stiglitz’s Manichean view of politics. Light is on the side of modern liberals, neo-Keynesians, and social democrats. Darkness envelops everything else.


This, however, is dwarfed by Stiglitz’s astonishing claim that the “free and unfettered markets advocated by Hayek and Friedman and so many on the Right have set us on the road of fascism.” I find it hard to believe that Stiglitz does not know that fascist regimes have historically been characterized by widespread regulation, endless interventionism, and corporatism: in short, the opposite of free market economies.

As the German market liberal economist Wilhelm Röpke demonstrated in his 1934 Economica article “Fascist Economics,” the economies of actual fascist regimes like Mussolini’s Italy were distinguished by a “monopolistic-interventionist system” enforced by armies of uniformed bureaucrats. Stiglitz, however, claims that the economic conditions preceding regimes like Nazi Germany were characterized by too little intervention.


A second irony concerns Stiglitz’s repeated insistence that he wants a more decentralized economy. All the policies listed above, however, necessitate a large government constantly intervening in the economy and crowding out the civil society associations that Stiglitz claims to value.

The third irony is that many of Stiglitz’s progressive capitalism proposals mirror those of prominent New Right thinkers. Not only do they support many of the same policies; but they also echo Stiglitz’s anti-neoliberal rhetoric and critical view of Hayek and Friedman. Therein lies a fracture that increasingly characterizes American politics: one in which Stiglitz’s Old Left economic preferences line up with those of some on the Right against whom his book inveighs.


Above all, social democrats have often undermined the means by which societies cultivate the moral habits needed to sustain what John Adams called “virtuous liberty.” Throughout his book, Stiglitz regularly refers to the importance of habits like honesty, trust, and other-regarding behavior for social cooperation. He is right to do so. But social democrats have traditionally looked to government to shape the social order—not civil society. The associated growth of state power and bureaucratization of society subverts the rich ecology of families and bottom-up communities and associations in which such habits are best taught and internalized.

Therein lies the deeper problem with Stiglitz’s book. Like many of his fellow-travelers on the Left and the New Right, Stiglitz doesn’t believe that we can trust ordinary people operating within a context of rule of law, constitutionally limited government, proven norms, and a rich civil society to make their own decisions as they see fit. For, notwithstanding Stiglitz’s desire to carve out a new road to freedom, the political agenda underlying this book is not one of renewal or rejuvenation. Instead, it reflects an old-fashioned Keynesian faith in the state: one that has always ill-fitted the American experiment in liberty of which Stiglitz is plainly skeptical.

Ryan Yonk and Ethan Yang ask: “Is China winning?” A slice:

For aspiring bureaucrats who fell in line with Xi’s mandate, promotion to national leadership positions in the Politburo, the CCP’s leadership organ, followed. Indeed, despite the public outcry surrounding Xi’s Zero-Covid response, his grip on power increased following the 20th Party Congress in 2022 when he replaced all his political opponents on the Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s highest governing body, with his allies. In particular, Li Qiang and Cai Qi, the mayors of Shanghai and Beijing who oversaw the widely condemned covid responses in Shanghai and Beijing, were elevated to Standing Committee positions for their loyalty, and willingness to follow the leader despite disastrous consequences.4

These political realities have significantly harmed business confidence in China and Chinese nationals have increasingly hedged their assets by purchasing property in foreign countries and positioning their wealth for mobility. Taken as a whole, these blemishes strongly suggest an overall narrative of a hyper competent and efficient autocratic regime is inaccurate.

Arnold Kling is understandably unimpressed with certain economists’ praise of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. A slice:

The establishment narrative for the financial crisis was already set two years before the FCIC report. My Mercatus paper cited a Treasury study that—of course—said that increasing the power of regulators was the solution, rather than the cause, for the calamity. If you let government control the narrative, it will always say that problems come from the private sector, and the answer is to make government bigger and stronger.

From a narrative perspective, the Edelberg-Fredberg paper hits a nerve with me for two reasons. One is the sheer smugness of it, with no mention of any mistakes made or lessons learned about economic policy analysis from their experience. It is as if the performance of the FCIC staff was flawless. The other problem is that substantively I disagree with their characterization of the what the FCIC produced. It did not give the most accurate explanation for the crisis. I see the FCIC as a purely political project from the outset, resulting in analysis that was somewhere in between inadequate and misleading.

Stefan Bartl reveals the ugly reality of the politics of protectionism.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady reminds us of this reality:

Cuba is still run by angry, envious tyrants who excel at only one thing: destruction. Having achieved that goal at home and made themselves rich in the process, they toil endlessly to expand their reach. Columbia University is merely one more destination on their revolutionary map.

Wall Street Journal columnist Allysia Finley writes about Biden’s “George Costanza presidency.” A slice:

Yet Mr. Biden’s bigger problem is that the pandemic handouts that Democrats hoped would win them votes have backfired. Excessive spending has fueled inflation and led to the highest interest rates in a generation. Young people have been especially harmed because those who don’t own homes now can’t afford them. Mr. Biden boasted a 33% approval rating among voters under 30 in an Economist/YouGov poll last week. Only 24% of them said the economy was excellent or good. A mere 13% thought it is improving and 15% believed it will get better if Mr. Biden is re-elected.

Anti-Israel Students Protest Jerry Seinfeld’s Commencement Speech.”

Wisdom from Eugene Volokh.

Jay Bhattacharya talks with the Bradley Foundation.

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