… is from page 132 of Arnold Kling’s brilliant new book (2016), Specialization and Trade: A Re-introduction to Economics:
The orthodox approach asks: “What is the optimal outcome? What policy intervention can produce that outcome?” This approach assumes away all government failure. It assumes away the ability of private-sector actors to adapt to solve problems or to circumvent regulatory intent.
Instead, the alternative approach is to ask, “Which institution is likely to arrive at the best solutions for problems of this type?” That is a more subtle and difficult question.
Truer words were never written.
“Progressives” and others who knee-jerkily turn to the state to micro-manage and to ‘solve’ every perceived economic or social imperfection, be it real or imaginary, treat the state as a deity. They treat the democratically empowered state, by assumption, as a superior being, as a supernatural entity, as a creature that sees more, knows more, and cares more than do the flesh-and-blood individuals who occupy and act in the private sphere. The democratically empowered state is a secular god – that is the dogmatic conviction of “Progressives.”
Under this assumption of a god-like problem-solver in our midst, problems become much less challenging. You don’t like the pay of some workers? No problem: the god-like state will command that wages rise. You are unhappy with the current statistical ‘distribution’ of income or wealth? No problem: assuming that we can exorcise the devils that deviously attempt to undermine the beneficent healing actions of the state, state-directed ‘redistribution’ will make things right. Saints will be rewarded at the expense of sinners.
You fear that the current levels of carbon emissions from industry and the current ‘concentration’ of market share in the lumber industry are too high? Not a problem: pray to the state and it will intercede to optimize emissions and to ensure that the lumber industry behaves as a good,
god-state-fearing industry should behave.
With the god-state at the ready to heed your prayers, all you must do is to spot problems and then report them to this agency. The god-state will make matters right, as long as we can keep in check the devils that for no reason, other than that they’re pure evil, work in dastardly ways to thwart the god-state’s beneficent efforts to save us all.
It’s all very simply, you see. Hallelujah.