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A Hayekian Lesson

Posted By Don Boudreaux On July 16, 2008 @ 1:29 pm In Complexity & Emergence,Myths and Fallacies | Comments Disabled

Here’s a letter that I sent last month to the Wall Street Journal:

Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins nicely detail some of the irrational policies driven by political passions and preposterous presumptions (“Stupidity and the State [1],” June 7).

One reason for this situation is that “We the People,” who are supposed to monitor our government, are 300 million individuals, each evolved to be able to digest only a tiny fraction of the knowledge necessary to keep such a huge society working.  In the free market, when each of us sticks to our own knitting, prices and competition weave our efforts together into a remarkably productive whole that is no part of anyone’s intention.

But when We the People try to plan large swathes of society consciously, we succumb to what Hayek called “the fatal conceit.”  We simply are not mentally equipped to govern society with the same effectiveness, subtlety, and prudence that each of us is evolved to bring to the governance of our own personal affairs.  So it’s no surprise that governments with vast powers routinely behave stupidly: they are attempting to do the impossible while being overseen by the ill-informed.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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