… is from page 263 of George Will’s superb 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:
There is a clear and present danger that America’s sterling contribution to the Great Enrichment might be petering out because Americans might be entering what will be called the Great Flinch, a reaction against the uncertainties and other stresses inherent in dynamism. This might be happening at the very moment when dynamism is needed more than ever.
DBx: Sad but true, this increasing likelihood of the Great Flinch.
Much of the impetus for such a flinch springs from a simple yet significant failure to grasp reality, especially economic reality. The reality that people fail to grasp is that the masses’ modern standard of living is impossible without the economic dynamism that is driven by what my Mercatus Center colleague Adam Thierer calls “permissionless innovation” and guided by market prices set by unobstructed economic competition for the patronage of buyers spending their own money as they choose.
A major myth is that we can continue to enjoy economic growth – perhaps somewhat slower than in the best of past times, but nevertheless real – if we give to government officials a great deal more discretionary powers to determine the allocation of resources. People who believe this myth imagine that economic growth would continue, but without any, or anywhere near as many, of the disruptions that arise in free markets – that is, without the need for producers to adjust to new consumer demands and to new and better methods of production.
Such a belief is the equivalent of believing in kosher ham sandwiches, in warm snow that never melts, or in romance guaranteed never to break anyone’s heart. Yes, the world would indeed be a lovelier place with these and other impossible fancies of the human imagination. But as Thomas Sowell correctly insists, reality isn’t optional. Such possibilities are not real and cannot be made real.
What reality does hold out for us is this: the more that we, for whatever reason, empower the state to prevent the disruptions entailed by entrepreneurial innovation and the freedom of consumers to spend their earnings as they choose, the greater is the amount of prosperity that we deny over time to ordinary men, women, and children. We might, in doing so, avoid some immediate anxiety and trouble, but this benefit will inevitably be paid for by far greater anxiety and trouble over time.
Those who claim to care especially about our children and grandchildren – about future generations – about tomorrow – should be the last people to endorse the protectionism, economic nationalism, and industrial policies peddled by pundits and politicians, left and right, who – ironically like children – see and care only about the here and now. Only children, or childish people, suppose either that doing all that one can to escape as many as possible of the troubles that arise today has no negative impact on tomorrow, or that it’s acceptable to ignore tomorrow.