The Hayek / Mises argument that any small step to the left leads inevitably to full on totalitarian socialism, might have had something going for it when the world was beset by Hitler, Stalin, and the fascist governments of Spain, Portugal and Southern America. And later, when national-socialism and fascism had become history, but communism seemed to be prospering under leadership from the Chinese as well as the Soviets, fear of centrally planned totalitarian socialism was not wholly unreasonable. But since the collapse of communism, there seems to be a rather limited rationale for fearing any initiative which might betoken even the slightest move to the left. Centrally planned totalitarian government really is not inevitable, or even feasible.
Yet the American neo-Conservative right, financed by self-interested corporates, loudly proclaim that neurosis. Perhaps more surprisingly, yesterday’s men of New Labour follow the same line, declaring any move to the left to be disastrous, both for the party and for the country. Being intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, refusing to impose progressive taxation, and being terrified of association with financial regulation and, God forbid, nationalisation; these were the trade-marks of New Labour. But it should all be history now.
At last there is room for an alternative to Friedmanite ideology. The days of shareholder primacy should be numbered. It depends on viable alternative perspectives being forged and there is an encouraging list of contributing authors. But the alternative has to be accepted by those who Keynes labelled the ‘madmen in authority’. And, so far, there is not much sign of acceptance, either from the pragmatism of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, or from Labour’s current leadership candidates.