Why Did People Wait More than Sixty Years to Get Upset?

In a post at The Beacon two days ago, I called attention to President Barack Obama’s executive order issued last Friday, March 16, which relates to the fact that, to quote my post’s title, “the specter of centrally planned economic fascism continues to hover over the United States.” In my post, I noted that the president’s order updates and amends previously issued executive orders, all of which put into more definite form the underlying statutory authority granted by the Defense Production Act of 1950, which has been in force continuously since its enactment.

I notice that the blogosphere is now abuzz with hyperventilating commentary about Obama’s order, as if the president—completely out of left field and totally without warning—had suddenly sprung this provision for a government takeover of the economy on an unsuspecting public. Get a grip, people. Obama’s order, egregious as it undoubtedly is, only moves the deck furniture around on a Leviathan than was launched in September 1950 and has been plowing the seas ever since. The president’s action seems to be serving, in particular, as grist for the Obama haters mill. I hold no brief for the president, but please bear in mind that he has committed plenty of his own sins against liberty. It’s really bizarre to flog him for something Harry Truman’s administration put forward, which has been validated and continued by every presidential administration from Truman’s to the present.

I realize that reading a federal statute is hard slogging for ordinary mortals, so I won’t bother to recommend that you read the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended. But in a couple of minutes you can read the entire Wikipedia entry for this statute. I recommend that you do so if you are among those who imagine that the current administration has just concocted a new plan to take over the U.S. economy and has sneaked it into effect by issuance of an unheralded executive order.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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