America Treading Down Road to Serfdom with Big Spending

Derek Bekebrede / Romina Boccia /

“The late great Austrian economist F.A. Hayek would have seen the Arab Spring for the economic revolt it was right from the start,” writes Hoover Institution scholar Fouad Ajami in The Wall Street Journal.

In his iconic Road to Serfdom, Hayek laid out the stepping stones that lead societies to abandon individual freedom and replace it with central planning and socialism. Ajami explains how the Arab world went down its road to serfdom during the 1950s and ’60s. America faces a similar risk today. Ajami writes:

“What Hayek would call the Arab world’s “road to serfdom” began when the old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and ’60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power. The officers and ideologues who came to rule Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen were men contemptuous of the marketplace and of economic freedom.”

As these countries neglected property rights and instituted bloated bureaucracies characterized by rampant corruption, their economies headed downward. Decades later, these policies have resulted in stricken economies with populations who are unable to provide for themselves and have now come to recognize that lack of liberty is the root cause of their demise.

No country is immune to the dangers lurking from expanding government. Speaking at The Heritage Foundation about his latest book, The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America, conservative British politician Daniel Hannan warned the United States not to follow the model of big government and regulation that has left Europe with unsustainable budgets and populations dependent on the public sector. As measured by Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom, big-government policies result in economies that are unfree, saddled with large debts, and unable to flourish—in Europe, the Arab world, or in America.

America’s current battle to rein in the growth of entitlement programs and control spending is indicative of the country’s dangerous road to serfdom. Faced with unsustainable levels of government spending and trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, some Members of Congress such as Paul Ryan (R–WI) have wisely proposed Medicare reform and stopping the expansion of the federal government under Obamacare. Without these reforms, the cost of these entitlements will continue to grow, forcing the government to increase taxes substantially or ration care.

President Obama and others have attacked the Ryan reforms and instead are pursuing a path of rationing care from the top down by handing control over seniors’ health care to an unelected board of bureaucrats. At the same time, America’s unfunded entitlement liabilities threaten to doom future generations of Americans to massive tax increases, as this Heritage chart shows.

To prevent the U.S. from following Europe down the road to serfdom, the growth of government must be reversed. Entitlements must be reformed, and excessive spending must be controlled. Members of Congress serious about reversing this trend should mine the Heritage Saving the American Dream plan for ideas to fix the debt, cut spending, and above all, restore American prosperity.

Derek Bekebrede is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: