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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 39 of James Otteson’s excellent essay in the Summer 2017 issue of The Independent Review, “The Misuse of Egalitarianism in Society“:

We must beware of the Great Mind Fallacy, which proposes policies that can be effectively administered only by a Great Mind possessed of knowledge and motivations no actual human being possesses.

DBx: Not one person in a million would express disagreement with this brief warning, and yet Jim wisely and necessarily offers it.  While few people expressly disagree with this warning, very many talk, write, and act as if they in fact disagree – and disagree strongly.

Not a day passes without professors, pundits, preachers, and politicians offering dozens of new proposals for government interventions to “correct” this or that problem.  Nearly all of these problems (some of them real, many of them nothing more than the costs of trade-offs that individuals make) are the consequences of social processes rich in billions of unfathomable details, much of them inarticulable and all of them – individually and as they hang together – unknowable to a single human mind.  Yet such swirling complexity is masked by words and phrases (“the health-care market” or “the level of inequality in America” or “America’s trade with China” or “the plight of low-skilled workers” or “the crises in the Middle East”).  Deluded into supposing that reality is as simple as are the words, concepts, and aggregations of numerical data that we use to describe reality – and romantically supposing that government officials who are members of our favorite party are very much like Hollywood heroes – we demand that the Great Minds who are falsely imagined to walk amongst us save us from ourselves, and save us as well as our favorite pet groups from the Bad Guys.

“Got a problem? Pass a ‘law’ or appoint government agents to ‘solve’ that problem!” is about as common – and about as naive – a reaction as is possible in human society.