INTERVIEWER: Philosophically speaking, what was the wellspring of your ideas? Were you influenced by people like Friedman or Hayek?
NEWT GINGRICH: No, I think I was influenced more by Adam Smith and by the founding fathers -- Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Washington -- and to some extent by the Whig historians of the 19th century. I was very much influenced by Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" and by Reagan's speeches starting with "A Time for Choosing" in October of 1964. I actually came to Hayek backwards through Reagan, rather than the other way. In my mind, at least, what you had was a clear overdevelopment of the state in the 20th century as a vehicle for humans to organize their lives, so you needed a party of freedom that was committed, almost in the British 19th-century liberal tradition, to argue for personal choice for markets, for private property rights, and for taking Bismarck's insurance state and transferring it into a personal insurance system, as we're trying to do now on social security.
What I saw was a deviation from the long 18th- and 19th-century rise of freedom in the Whig tradition with four different patterns: the regulatory state in response to industrialization, where Theodore Roosevelt is probably the leading American developer of it; Fabian socialism with its British class warfare style, which never fit America, but the underlying anti-wealth, anti-achievement patterns did, [such as the] distrust of private property and private activity; third was Bismarck's insurance state, which gradually spread across the industrial world and which is essentially right if you can organize it so that people are insuring themselves rather than as a paternalistic bureaucracy trying to take care of you; and then finally, with Ludendorff's war economy in Germany in 1917, you really get what shapes John Kenneth Galbraith and a whole generation of younger economists, including Keynes, and that is the power of the state for a very short time to mobilize power and wealth remarkably. What they didn't realize was that while you can do that for about the length of the second world war, which in the American experience is not quite four years, if you do it much longer than that, it creates its own internal distortions. [This] is exactly what Hayek writes about it and what Smith understood: that a combination of politics, bureaucracy, [and] the distortion of power in the long run is radically less effective than the market as a place to allocate resources. So you had, from 1917, compounded by Leninism and then by Maoism, this affection of the left for the state as an organizing system, which when I was a young person in the late '50s was really close to its peak. There was a sense [that] this is the intelligent, sophisticated future, and those of you who favor free markets and private property represent this obsolete past. What all of us who believed in freedom felt was that in the long run centralized commanding control systems decay and collapse, and that's a historic pattern. You have to concede at least that Reagan was far more right than most of his left-wing critics in his understanding of the Soviet empire and the fact that in the end it just couldn't keep functioning.
INTERVIEWER: Do you make a connection between free markets and personal freedom, personal liberty?
NEWT GINGRICH: Absolutely. In fact, so did all the founding fathers. That goes back to the English Civil War, which is really the wellspring from which the American model of freedom emerges. It is the English Civil War and the effort of people to protect themselves from judges who are instruments of the state, not instruments of justice, to protect themselves from troops in their houses, to protect themselves from the king's right to kill you. And it's out of that English Civil War that you begin to have the rise of what we now call freedom, [the] first truly mass democratic societies in history, even more than the Roman republic. I think it's inextricable if you read Locke, if you read Jefferson, if you read the founding fathers, it is inextricable that if you don't have the right to private property, if you don't have the right to trial by jury, if you don't have the right to vote and fire the people to whom you loan power, you don't have freedom. The idea of a socialist free society in the long run, as Hayek points out, is an impossibility.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Great Newt Interview
Check out this great (and lengthy) interview of Newt back in 2001. Here is an excerpt, if you have time, read the whole thing (h/t Conservatives with Newt):