Gov’t Vs the Individual

July 12, 2023

Gov’t Vs the Individual
From Coyote:

Bill Whittle makes a great point in this video which is at the heart of the problems with this administration: While Obama and his young policy wonks may be smarter (or at least think they are smarter) than other folks individually, they cannot possibly be smarter than the sum of 300 million well educated, relatively affluent Americans making decisions for themselves. Every technocrat founders on these rocks

Via Maggie’s Farm, where in a later post we get this wise insight:

economist Robert Frank thinks we’ll all be happier if we’re taxed more and controlled more, presumably because we are incompetent, dysfunctional morons. A quote from a comment on his book:

Behaviorist economics has become the latest fad among liberals. Classic free-market economists hold that individuals are rational, or at least act rationally: thus free decisions in a free market deliver optimal economic results. The behaviorists, among whom Frank is a pioneer, propose by contrast that government should protect us against the consequences of our passions. Behaviorist economics has supplied a scientific rationale for increasing taxes, imposing additional regulations, and limiting individual choice. It’s all for our own good.

One wonders to what extent the current success of behaviorism on the liberal left might implicitly draw on the American Puritanical tradition. In the name of science (global warming, healthy living, and so on), the liberal academic community seeks to impose limitations on individual free choice, the same way the old-time Puritan pastors did. (When I raised this historical precedent in a conversation with Frank, who sees himself as a God-free libertarian, he was speechless.)

Frank’s vision is of citizens as a herd of happy, peaceful, benighted sheep, grazing, screwing and reading comics in a meadow while producing wool for the State’s mills – and ruled by wise, altruistic men like him (who of course lack the passions of us peons – other than the passion to run the world their way. And who wants their life to be fully rational anyway? Not me.).

Problem is, as our post on technocrats and policy wonks yesterday discussed, the People have far more accumulated wisdom and life experience than any group of scheming technocrats or condescending academics who wish to create a world in their own image.

I would much prefer Sippican, Vanderleun, Glenn Reynolds, or my neighbor as President than the smartest guy in the Harvard School of Government. They understand why the energetic people of the world want to come to America.

Furthermore, we have seen all over the world in the 20th Century 1. how dispiriting powerful States are to the inventiveness and productivity of the aspiring, imaginative, creative and energetic individual (and how, if you dispirit the producers, there’s no money to fund anything), 2. how entire sociopathic populations and cultures can be created (as in the Soviet Union) by energetic and resourceful people working the system and sneaking around it, and 3. how States politicize everything, and how power corrupts.

Frank is thus dangerously naive to idealize the State as some benevolent, altruistic, all-wise entity – almost like a god – and he is ignorant to view his fellow Americans as needing control and direction at gunpoint. It is an infantile and grandiose vision, and one which every proud red-blooded American should find demeaning and insulting. Un-American. Steyn’s point about civic life is very well-taken by us Yankees: civic life isn’t the Federal Government – it’s your neighborhood and town.

I’d like to believe this, and I did believe it wholeheartedly just a year or two ago. Now I think we’ve been so conditioned by our poor public education, our entitlement culture, and our technological conveniences that mean we never have to know how to do things for ourselves that we are increasingly incompetent and culturally incapable of caring for ourselves, let alone thinking clearly.