Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America

By Richard Vedder; Lowell Gallaway | Go to book overview
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15

Unemployment and the State

When reaching the conclusion of a book, one searches for broad themes, for a grand statement of the central thesis of the work. In this instance, the fundamental thrust of our effort may not have been totally obvious, having been somewhat submerged in the masses of statistical and theoretical discussion that have been a necessary feature of our argument. Basically, what we have been examining is the role that the state has to play in determining the level of unemployment in a free society. To provide a focus for dealing with that question, let us review the range of alternative views on this issue. We begin with a quotation from Professor Hayek. In his classic, The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, he perceives the essence of the debate about the nature of what was becoming known as macroeconomic policy quite perceptively, to wit:

There is, finally, the supremely important problem of combating general fluctuations of economic activity and the recurrent waves of large-scale unemployment which accompany them. This is, of course, one of the gravest and most pressing problems of our time. But, though its solution will require much planning in the good sense, it does not—or at least need not—require that special kind of planning which according to its advocates is to replace the market. 1


The State and the Business Cycle

What Hayek had in mind when he penned these remarks was the growing movement toward advocacy of some form of centralized planning that

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