Monday, October 08, 2012

Hayek on Policies that Foster Monopolies

We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become. —Benito Mussolini

What follows is F.A. Hayek commenting on how, in most cases, governmental economic policy creates the conditions for monopolies to form.  He then goes on to explain how centralized planning cannot conceivably understand and reasonably control all the variables in a complex economy.  Only in a free market system of competition can a complex economic system function effectively.
"Of the various arguments employed to demonstrate the inevitability of planning, the one most frequently heard is that technological changes have made competition impossible in a constantly increasing number of fields and that the only choice left to us is between control of production by private monopolies and direction by the government. This belief derives mainly from the Marxist doctrine of the “concentration of industry...” 
The conclusions that the advantage of large-scale production must lead inevitably to the abolition of competition cannot be accepted. It should be noted, moreover, that monopoly is frequently the product of factors other than the lower costs of greater size. It is attained through collusive agreement and promoted by public policies. When these agreements are invalidated and when these policies are reversed, competitive conditions can be restored....” 
In [Germany] especially, which came to be regarded as the model country typifying the necessary evolution of capitalism, the growth of cartels and syndicates has since 1878 been systematically fostered by deliberate policy. Not only the instrument of protection but direct inducements and ultimately compulsion were used by the governments to further the creation of monopolies for the regulation of prices and sales.... 
That [in Germany] the suppression of competition was a matter of deliberate policy, that it was undertaken in the service of the ideal which we now call planning, there can be no doubt. In the progressive advance toward a completely planned society the Germans, and all the people who are imitating their example, are merely following the course which nineteenth-century thinkers, particularly Germans, have mapped out for them.  The intellectual history of the last sixty or eighty years is indeed a perfect illustration of the truth that in social evolution nothing is inevitable but thinking makes it so....
What they generally suggest is that the increasing difficulty of obtaining a coherent picture of the complete economic process makes it indispensable that things should be coordinated by some central agency if social life is not to dissolve in chaos.... is the very complexity of the division of labor under modern conditions which makes competition the only method by which such coordination can be adequately brought about. There would be no difficulty about efficient control or planning were conditions so simple that a single person or board could effectively survey all the relevant facts. It is only as the factors which have to be taken into account become so numerous that it is impossible to gain a synoptic view of them that decentralization becomes imperative. But, once decentralization is necessary, the problem of coordination arises—a coordination which leaves the separate agencies free to adjust their activities to the facts which only they can know and yet brings about a mutual adjustment of their respective plans. As decentralization has become necessary because nobody can consciously balance all the considerations bearing on the decisions of so many individuals, the coordination can clearly be effected not by “conscious control” but only by arrangements which convey to each agent the information he must possess in order effectively to adjust his decisions to those of others."

Hayek, F. A. (2010-10-22). The Road to Serfdom (p. 91-95). University of Chicago Press - A. Kindle Edition.

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