We don't live in an authoritarian society, but Hayek's point still applies.
A system that rewards politicians skilled at campaigning -- which is the art of creating an illusion -- and that puts hundreds of billions of coerced taxpayer dollars at the disposal of the winners will tend to attract men and women with a comparative advantage in manipulation. We shouldn't be surprised that people like Blagojevich prosper in "public service" -- until they get caught crossing the line.
At his news conference last week, Obama said, "[T]here is a tradition of public service, where people are getting in it for the right reasons and to serve, but there's also a tradition where people view politics as a business." That difference is not as sharp as he thinks. Even someone devoted to achieving the public good is ignorant of what is truly in the interest of a group of individuals as large and diverse as the population of a state or country. Lacking that knowledge -- and with his political cronies and the most politically connected lobbies constantly whispering in his ear -- he will presume that what is good for the best -- organized interest groups -- must be good for everyone. Then he will take from all of us to bail out those special interests. This will tend to be good for the politician's career.
Blagojevich allegedly assumed someone would be willing to pay dearly to be a U.S. senator. I'm sure he was right. But if government were less important in our lives, politicians would have fewer goodies to trade. In return, we'd have more money and more freedom.
That's one more reason to limit government power.