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Do You Believe in Magic?

The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has a superb op-ed in the August 3rd edition of the Los Angeles Times. I especially like the following insight:

But liberals and conservatives have more in common than you might think.

Both believe in government magic. And they want you to believe in it too. They want you to believe the president can be Superman, Santa Claus and Mother Teresa all rolled into one and that he can cure poverty and racism, keep kids off drugs and keep families together. Magical thinking is cute among children. But adults should know that the world is complicated and that legislative actions often fail, or backfire, or have unintended consequences or disappear into bureaucratic sinkholes.

This insight cannot be repeated too often. (Children seldom learn any piece of wisdom by hearing it only once.) In 1871, the great novelist George Eliot observed in her masterpiece, Middlemarch, that “there is nothing more thoroughly rotten than making people believe that society can be cured by a political hocus-pocus.”

The great challenge is to make such mysticism disappear.