Not a Novel Question, but One Worth Asking Again and Again

by Don Boudreaux on August 25, 2011

in Politics, State of Macro

If human choices and actions in private settings are so heavily influenced by animal spirits that the economy is often significantly damaged by their musings and muckings around, aren’t human choices and actions in political settings at least equally influenced by these same animal spirits – and, hence, isn’t political activity at least equally distorted by these unpredictable poltergeists?

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{ 80 comments }

Methinks1776 August 25, 2011 at 6:57 am

That’s why it’s so important you choose the “right” people! Like…um…or…uh….well,,,,

Don Boudreaux August 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

:-)

Kevin L August 25, 2011 at 7:23 am

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

Like…um…Enron or Countrywide or Goldman Sachs or Windows ME …uh…well,,,

Tim Reagan August 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

Exactly muirgeo…The government is not above the sins of corporations. Too many think that because there is no competitive element government is pure. But human nature is the same in private whether the people are paid by tax dollars or sales.

Craig S August 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

“Enron or Countrywide or Goldman Sachs ”
This is what you get when you have a greater role for Gov’t. Rent seekers manipulating the process for their own benefit. The answer is not meaningless phrases like “returning power to the people” what ever that means, its restricting the role of gov’t in every day life. If gov’t doesn’t pick winners and losers, there is nothing for the rent seekers to control.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm

You call my pharse ““returning power to the people” meaningless. Yet I can tell you VERY specifically what I mean by that and it involves almost NO infrigement on individual liberty. Yet you guys constantly repeat the tripefilled phrase , “restricting the role of gov’t in every day life.” and yet you have NO freaking IDEA what you mean by that or how that would look legislatively or how it would be enforced pragmatically… you have NO IDEA because as always you guys don’t think through the consequences of your thoughts and claims.

Methinks1776 August 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I can tell you VERY specifically what I mean by that and it involves almost NO infrigement on individual liberty.

Yes, BUT can YOU tell US without….THE USE of caps lock AND FOAMING at the MOUTH and DOT dot DOT???????!?!!?!?!?!!!?!?

Fred August 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

and yet you have NO freaking IDEA what you mean by that or how that would look legislatively or how it would be enforced pragmatically…

Legislatively it would look like getting rid of legislation.
How do you describe dark? A lack of light.
How do you describe freedom? A lack of legislation.

How do you enforce freedom? You don’t pass stupid laws that restrict freedom.

People say you’re a doctor. Wow. Lord help us.

Ken August 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

Enron, Countrywide, and Goldman Sachs were in bed with government officials, senators, and congressmen, all of who were complicit in their deception of their shareholders and the public.

Don’t forget the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs. All are failures. Don’t forget Ruby Ridge, Waco, Iraq, the Patriot Act, Obamacare. Don’t forget the inner cities of LA, Detroit, Baltimore, DC, St Louis, particularly public housing. Don’t forget the Kelo decision. Don’t forget the EPA, particularly the ban on DDT.

And that only took two or three minutes of superficial thought. The failures in the privates sector go away once they’ve become known. The failures of government simply morph into a cancerous tumor on the country.

Regards,
Ken

SweetLiberty August 25, 2011 at 11:10 am

Well said!

morganovich August 25, 2011 at 11:14 am

enron and countrywide failed.

they went away.

the fact that this never happens to the FDA, EPA, DMV etc no matter how stupidly they act tells you a great deal about why government is more dangerous than anything private ever could be.

txslr August 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

How was Enron in cahoots with government? They fought hard against the form of California power market deregulation and failed. When they were going under the appealed the the Bush Treasury for help a’ la TARP and got nothing. They cozied up to politicians of both flavors and I’m sure they got SOMETHING along the way, but certainly it was nothing like Countrywide.

Ken August 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm

The fact that Enron fought AGAINST deregulation suggests strongly that they took advantage of their political ties to extract money using regulations.

Additionally, Enron used accounting tricks that everyone knew existed, primarily hiding losses through shell companies. Every time legislation came up to close those accounting tricks, they mustered their army of lobbyists to DC to kill that legislation. Every time regulators started to ask serious questions about their accounting practices, again they marshalled their lobbyists and the questions went unanswered.

Their government collaboration may not have been as large as Countrywide, but so what?

Regards,
Ken

TheCalculusofComment August 25, 2011 at 7:04 am

Isn’t this the essence of public choice theory?

Don Boudreaux August 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

Pretty much.

Bret August 25, 2011 at 7:08 am

Equally distorted? No, political activity suffers from far worse distortions since there’s fewer constraints (as in who will watch the watchers?).

Even worse is when those in private settings team up with (i.e. lobby) those in political settings to really milk the populace.

E. Barandiaran August 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

You’re right. And public choice is about the control of people that have been trusted with powers to secure liberty and to promote cooperation under the assumption that human nature is the same in all actions. Either human nature changes (by force as totalitarians have always attempted, or by discovery of our good side as some socialist scholars continue to argue) or incentives are created to control our dark side.

vidyohs August 25, 2011 at 7:38 am

Actually that is a given.

kyle8 August 25, 2011 at 7:41 am

Well we have recently seen the ugly action of mobs who were at least partially political motivated. I guess that is an example of animal spirits. They certainly looked like a pack of wild animals to me.

NotSure August 25, 2011 at 8:16 am

It is the mystery of democracy, somehow a bunch of ignorant people will put an x on a piece of paper and then a wise and efficient government magically emerges.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 8:49 am

Absolutely! We don’t expect humans to make the right choices in their own buying decisions all the time nor do we expect them to be perfect with their political decision making and likewise for policy makers. The markets, the voters nor the government work on perfection. Mistakes and failures occur in both regularly. It just matters that the failures are recognized and hopefully thrown out or improved upon.

Somehow libertarians trust people to make good purchasing decisions en mass but NOT good political decisions en mass? The biggest problem is marketing…. those masters of political anne market propaganda can often deceive people into making bad decisions.

fdsa August 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

Libertarians think that when people spend their own money on themselves, they make wiser decisions (in terms of their own interests), on average, than they do when they spend other people’s money on other people — in terms of those other people’s interests.

When you’re spending somebody else’s money, there’s a conflict of interest.

Political decisions invariably involve spending other people’s money. There is no remotely honest purchasing decision I can make that will result in somebody giving me a big pile of other people’s money in return for nothing. But I can vote for somebody who promises to do just that. Personal purchasing decisions and political decisions are very different.

When libertarians say something that baffles you and seems to involve an expectation of magic, they’re usually talking about incentives. For some reason, folks on the left (it doesn’t appear to me that you’re one of ‘em) generally seem to assume that all thinking about economics includes a hefty dose of magic. Not sure why that is.

A libertarian might expect democracy or a republic to be less bad than monarchy because the people whose money is being spent have some input into the process. That input is pretty diffuse, but it’s better than nothing. From what I’ve seen so far, that hypothesis looks reasonable.

NotSure August 25, 2011 at 9:23 am

muirgeo, you probably think you are making a clever retort about companies that go under. All you are showing is your complete ignorance, failure of companies and individuals in a free market is a fundamental requirement, the quicker they fail the better. If no companies are going under then there is something really wrong with the system.

If you know anything about successful entrepreneurs you will often see that lots of them failed many times before the succeeded. Without failure there can be no success. Failure of government is not corrected with voting, especially if the majority do not pay tax for the government they are voting for. The only way governments are punished is via globalisation, which is probably why you are so against the idea of business outsourcing, it exposes the badness of your beloved politicians.

Seth August 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

First, I recommend that you read the three paragraphs from Thomas Sowell in the link below very carefully.

http://ourdinnertable.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/how-to-get-people-to-respond-to-other-peoples-desires/

“We don’t expect humans to make the right choices in their own buying decisions all the time nor do we expect them to be perfect with their political decision making and likewise for policy makers.”

Second, buying decisions are trial-and-error. When I make a bad purchase, it’s incremental, the damage is limited, I learn my lesson and look for a better option. That’s an effective feedback loop. It works out the errors.

When politicians make bad policy decisions, they double down. They keep your attention focused on the intentions, rather than the results, to convince you to give them another try. That’s an ineffective feedback loop. It amplifies the errors.

SweetLiberty August 25, 2011 at 11:16 am

“…[Politicians] keep your attention focused on the intentions, rather than the results, to convince you to give them another try.”

Excellent! This is my quote of the day!!!

Craig S August 25, 2011 at 10:16 am

Somehow libertarians trust people to make good purchasing decisions en mass but NOT good political decisions en mass?

No, libertarians are trust INDIVIDUALS to make decision for themselves. If those purchasing decisions are “bad”, they affect only the individual that made the purchase. When people make bad political decisions en mass, it affects everyone.

If I choose to eat burgers and fries everyday and get fat, it affects me and me alone, not you and Don Boudreaux. If you vote for people that won’t allow me to buy lemonade from someone else then it affects all of us.

“The biggest problem is marketing…. those masters of political anne market propaganda can often deceive people into making bad decisions”

No, the biggest problem is people like you that think you know what’s better for everyone else.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

“No, the biggest problem is people like you that think you know what’s better for everyone else.”
CraigS

Actually guys like you are no differnet. You think YOU know what’s best for everyone else and we’re all pretty sure what you thinks sucks for almost everyone else and that’s why we don’t vote for the stuff you think is better for us.

It’s “We the People…” not “I the Craig….” get over it control freak. Because indeed it is people like you who can’t have things being democratically decided because they don’t always go your way so you want to take away the people right to democracy.

Ken August 27, 2011 at 12:04 am

“You think YOU know what’s best for everyone else”

False. Libertarians explicitly acknowledge their lack of knowledge of other people’s lives and call for policies that give people the maximum amount of control over their own lives.

Can you explain coherently how Obamacare is NOT a paternalistic law in which government politicians and bureaucrats think they know how best to provide medical insurance to people they don’t know or care about?

Regards,
Ken

Ken August 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

When the private sector makes a mistake, money is lost or businesses go under. When governments make mistakes, lives are lost and liberty is restricted. Saying the mistakes of the two are comparable is stupid.

Regards,
Ken

morganovich August 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

that’s an absurd distortion.

when 51% of americans buy an iphone, it does not harm the other 49%.

when 51% of americans vote to use the coercive power of government to force the the other 49% to pay ALL the income taxes, it does.

to equate a purchasing decision with the use of a tyranny majority to shower free goodies on yourself is ridiculous.

this country broke from england over issues of taxation without representation.

it’s ironic that we are now heading into a fiscal abyss over representation without taxation.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

“when 51% of americans vote to use the coercive power of government to force the the other 49% to pay ALL the income taxes, it does.”

Who says? Income taxes lead to the developement of the microprocessoer, nuclear power, space satellites,internet, Hooover dam and Las Vegas, the catalytic convertor, swept winged aircraft and many other government funded research innovations, public works ect that have added to our economic success.

There is no society that taxes its people less than 25% of GDP that is successful. In fact most of the lowest tax/ gdp societies are hell holes.

James N August 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Exhibit A: “Income taxes lead to the developement of the microprocessoer, nuclear power, space satellites,internet, Hooover dam and Las Vegas, the catalytic convertor, swept winged aircraft and many other government funded research innovations, public works ect that have added to our economic success.”

Let me get this straight, income taxes led to the development of the above-mentioned items? Are you suggesting that if we hadn’t passed the 16th Amendment those items wouldn’t exist? Or maybe you’re advancing the idea that if not for government, no one in the private sector would have ever conceived the idea. Is it possible that you are truly that ignorant, or do you spout this nonsense just to get a rise out of the other individuals on these threads?

Ken August 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm

James,

“Is it possible that you are truly that ignorant,”

After reading some of the incredible things muirgeo says, I can guarantee you that he is truly that ignorant.

Regards,
Ken

muirgeo August 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

“Let me get this straight, income taxes led to the development of the above-mentioned items? Are you suggesting that if we hadn’t passed the 16th Amendment those items wouldn’t exist?”

Those things developed in a country that collected taxes and funded public research…all of them…. NONE of them developed in a low tax libertarian society… NONE OF THEM

Social Democracy 568
Libertarian Dumbass Society 0

It’s a blow out dude.

Ken August 26, 2011 at 10:37 am

muirgeo,

Who developed the internal combustion engine that needs that catalytic converter? Who developed flight? And the microprocessor was NOT developed using government funds.

Social democracies may very well have developed 568 things out of the BILLIONS of things humans have developed over the years. You’re right it is a blow out. The government sucks at developing things.

Regards,
Ken

James N August 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

I’m sorry, but someone has to say it. This is further proof that muirgeo is nothing more than an internet troll and an ignorant one, at that. How could anyone argue with the question posed by Don in this post? muirgeo, our resident unprincipled, economically illiterate, immoral wise a$$ is the only one with the chutzpah to do so. Rather than have the guts to admit that the question is valid, he advances another of his stupid straw man arguments and has the audacity to think he’s scored another “got ya”. How pathetic!

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Go here;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_revenue_as_percentage_of_GDP

Tell me what level of taxes to gdp we should have based on this data?

Do you want our tax to gdp to be low like it is for Haiti,? Maybe Sudan or Bangladesh?

We certainly don’t want high tax to gdp ratios like in Belgium… I mean just because they have the happiest people in the world…

Again you call me the nuit but the data doesn’t support what you claim. It supports what I claim far better.

Slappy McFee August 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

This is why I love you doctor. Using your own link, I see that Zimbabwe (at 49.3% of GDP) is the highest taxed countries I can recognize. What a utopia that must be.

Also in the top 10, freedom loving CUBA!!! Wahoo. I’ll just unpack my ’57 Chevy, tie on a couple of empty pontoons, and float me and Michael Moore across for some of that awesome gubmint healthcare.

I also see you failed to notice that South Korea and several former Eastern Bloc countries have lower tax rates.

So much for that data supporting your claims.

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

He only sees what he wants to see.

muirgeo August 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm

So based on this data what would you say is the likely best ideal range for tax to GDP?

I’m gonna go with the 30- 40% range. The data definatly doesn’t support the idea that less taxes are always better… far from it.

That’s why I like you…. you rebuttals are easy to quash.

muirgeo August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

I can argue Don’s point because I am not the one saying government is perfect. It clearly is not. But neither are markets.

My point is Don’s belief and libertarians beliefs are the ones that are inconsistent. Why is market experimentation and failure a good thing and not government policy? We need both. We need to try different things every now and then and be prepared to change if they fail.

We’ve tried cutting taxes on the wealthy and that was a failure… We tried letting Wall Street be Big Boys and self govern and that was a failure… But we’ve done lots of good things with government like our federal highways, our national parks, public research that brought us microprocessor and the internet so Jobs and Brin could try and succeed making good things to sell on the market.

So …no …my position is consistent and coherent and rational. The cut-all-the-government-crowd is baseless and childish and shortsighted and unthinking and not pragmatic and not reality based.

Sam Grove August 26, 2011 at 11:59 pm

We’ve tried cutting taxes on the wealthy and that was a failure…

Mostly irrelevant, what hasn’t been tried is actually cutting government spending. Let us know when that happens.

We tried letting Wall Street be Big Boys and self govern and that was a failure…

Pure leftist fabrication that Wall Street somehow represents a free market. The financial sector is the most heavily regulated sector of the economic system.

James N August 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Ken, I guess you were right, he really is that ignorant.

Kirby August 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

more importantly, how can anyone argue with any question posed by anybody anywhere?

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Stupid is, stupid does. You can’t legislate stupid.

Pom-Pom August 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.”–Herbert Spencer

muirgeo August 26, 2011 at 2:00 am

It’s, “stupid is as stupid does”…stupid.

Kirby August 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm

it’s monkey see, monkey do.

Ken August 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

“The biggest problem is marketing…. those masters of political anne market propaganda can often deceive people into making bad decisions.”

Like the 2008 Obama presidential marketing campaign?

Regards,
Ken

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Indeed!

Sam Grove August 26, 2011 at 1:28 am

Somehow libertarians trust people to make good purchasing decisions en mass but NOT good political decisions en mass?

Evidence of cluelessness.

SaulOhio August 26, 2011 at 5:57 am

“Somehow libertarians trust people to make good purchasing decisions en mass but NOT good political decisions en mass?”

Why include the word “somehow”? The how has been explained many, many times, in detail. At least read “The Myth of the Rational Voter”.

Doc Merlin August 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

Nonsense! Voting is an accurate way to measure utility functions and is the best way to constrain an entity, be it a company or a country!
/sarcasm

Ignore the fact that voting is completely insensitive to effects not close to the median.

Daniel Kuehn August 25, 2011 at 9:21 am

I’m on the fence.

Part of me says “yes of course”. This is public choice, and basic political economy before that.

Part of me remembers that animal spirits have to do with assessments of uncertain profit prospects and part of the point of distinguishing between the state and the market is that there are no profit prospects that a state has to worry about. This distinction seems relevant here.

Then another part of me says “Don is sounding an awful lot like Paul Krugman”. Isn’t it Krugman’s position that a major problem is politicians suffer from the same sort of bouts of glumness that firms do?

The symmetry shouldn’t be surprising – even in a simple Keynesian cross the I and the G perform pretty much the same analytic function.

Fearsome Tycoon August 25, 2011 at 9:34 am

When you don’t care about losing money, it makes it that much easier to get caught up in hype, hence government “investments” in faddish projects like “green energy,” high-speed rail, universal higher ed, etc.

dsylexic August 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

on the fence? Krugster says that he was inspired to take up economics based on some Isac Asimov novel in which geeks save the world.
he clearly thinks that geeks(like himself ofcourse) are above the frailties of other human beings.
this hubris comes the pretense of knowledge and the inevitable arrogance that breeds from being inside ivory towers for a long time.wonkocracy is apparently free from animal spirits.

Seth August 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

“This distinction seems relevant here.”

Only if you constrict yourself to the literal definition. Evaluating relevance based on the definition of the term ‘profit’ alone misses the point.

The act of assessing prospective actions that have uncertain outcomes seems to be the relevant point.

Daniel Kuehn August 25, 2011 at 10:43 am

Right, which is why I lead with “yes, of course”.

But it seems relevant to then ask “So when there is a reason for people to all suddenly get depressed about future profits, do all agents react in the same way? If not, what are the consequences?” Politicians are as human as non-politicians which means they respond to incentives just like other humans, but that doesn’t mean that they face the same incentives at the same time. Demand deficiency presents different incentives to profit-maximizers and non-profit maximizers. That seems relevant.

Seth August 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

You wrote that “part of” you “says yes, of course.” I wasn’t addressing that part. With that part, I agree.

I was addressing the other part of you.

“Demand deficiency presents different incentives to profit-maximizers and non-profit maximizers.”

I agree. It presents the incentive to be prudent and make tough choices to profit-maximizers, while non-profit maximizers face no such constraints. In fact, they use the peoples’ own prudence in such situations as the very reasoning for them not be prudent.

It goes something like: “We’re not sure why you’re not spending your money, but we don’t like it, so — in the name of our good Lord Keynes — we’re going to spend it for you.”

Daniel Kuehn August 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

re: “I was addressing the other part of you.”

Did that part disagree with the first part? I didn’t think they did – I just thought they came up with slightly different answers.

re: “It goes something like: “We’re not sure why you’re not spending your money, but we don’t like it, so — in the name of our good Lord Keynes — we’re going to spend it for you.”

It does nothing like that, but thanks for playing.

Daniel Kuehn August 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

*goes

Seth August 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Oh boy.

Dan H August 25, 2011 at 9:41 am

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
- The Federalist #51

vikingvista August 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

If men were angels, government might be safe.

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

If angels were men, heaven would become hell.

Tom August 25, 2011 at 9:45 am

Politically, in a democracy, a “majority rules purchase” will always be made whether there is a desirable choice or not. It may require an iterative process, but someone WILL be elected.

In the goods and services marketplaces, anyone and everyone has the choice to purchase nothing if there are no desirable choices being offered at desirable prices. As always, it is more complicated than that simplistic statement of course, but I did want to point out that important difference.

dsylexic August 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

true,democracy seems to be confused by most with majoritarianism.the tyranny of votes.

Bill N August 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm

muirgeo writes,
“Somehow libertarians trust people to make good purchasing decisions en mass but NOT good political decisions en mass? The biggest problem is marketing…. those masters of political anne market propaganda can often deceive people into making bad decisions.”

Not true at all, the two decisions are fundamentally different. Political decisions usually have the effect of collapsing the decision space wave function into a single, or limited set of states. Distributed decisions retain a full spectrum, i.e. a superposition of multiple states. It is not required that the mass will make the “right decision”, only that enough will choose correctly that the rest of us will notice.

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

When your choice gives you failure, then you usually won’t make the same mistake… Unless you are progressive and then it is try, try, try, try, try, try again ….. Hence, the constant drumbeat of resurrecting FDR policies.

muirgeo August 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

Yes… the post FDR 50′s,60′sand 70′s when we came to be the most advanced economy the world has ever seen and defeated communism were such a failure…

See it takes you saying and convincing yourself of your own non-sensical bullshit to make you think you have a point. The only point you have is at the top of your head.

SaulOhio August 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The key word here is POST. The economy finally got a chance to recover once FDR died! If his economic policies were so great, why didn’t they give us prosperity while he was still in office?

Ken August 27, 2011 at 12:11 am

In fact, Saul, two of the deepest market crashes (and accompanying recession) occurred while FDR was president. The second worst occurred in 1937-8 and the 8th worst in 1939-1942. The second one is interesting because the standard claim is the WWII ended the Great Depression, but the reality is that the beginning of WWII wrought yet another economic crash on the US economy.

muirgeo doesn’t like having these facts pointed out because for him FDR is the resurrected son of god on economic matters. Yet FDR failed miserably to do anything but extend and deepen the Great Depression.

Regards,
Ken

Stone Glasgow August 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

No no, we just need to find leaders to selflessly rule! Liberals tend to have blind faith in their chosen leaders in the same way that conservatives have faith in Jesus.

The irony is that Christians were the original believers in a godlike man to lead them; they were as the left is today — followers of cult leaders who imply they have superhuman insight and ability.

PrometheeFeu August 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

You know, some conservatives don’t have much faith in Jesus. Just sayin…

PrometheeFeu August 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I think the difference between liberals and libertarians is largely that liberals still think there is a philosopher king out there. And so all we have to do is find him or her and then we will all be saved. Let’s try that Obama guy, he looks like a good bet. Didn’t work out? We’ll find him soon enough. Don’t give up! We’ll find the Philosopher King.

Don Boudreaux August 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I think that your explanation has much merit, PrometheeFeu.

PrometheeFeu August 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Thanks. It’s influenced by personal experience. For a long time, I was quite sure I could be the Philosopher King and very much wanted to go into politics so that with an iron hand I could fix everything. Eventually I realized that it was not going to happen and became a libertarian because I was quite sure whoever ended up in charge was not someone I could trust with that power. (read “not me”)

Greg Webb August 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

My experience with government, both inside Leviathan and out, is that politicians and top-level bureaucrats are more susceptible to the “animal spirits” than are private individuals. When I get emotional and make a bad decision, I learn from the experience because of the pain of the financial loss so I don’t do that again. But, politicians and top-level bureaucrats never experience such direct financial pain. When politicians and top-level bureaucrats get emotional and make a bad decision, they immediately resort to CYA mode by using the traditional talking points to stir up the fallacious controversy of Democrat v. Republican, progressive v. conservative, left v. right. And, this is the diversion that allows many politicians and top-level bureaucrats to avoid responsibility for their “big-government” follies.

John August 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Agree that we should frequently raise the question but there has to be follow-ups as that question itself don’t lead to any useful directions or thought. It’s really one good to get one to pause in their thinking about politics, regulation legislation. If we take Buchanan’s recent thoughts about limits to markets in the production of their rules to heart we still need to think about where to go next.

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