… is a two-fer: It’s from page 70 of the May 9th, 2020, draft of the important forthcoming monograph from Deirdre McCloskey and Alberto Mingardi, The Illiberal and Anti-Entrepreneurial State of Mariana Mazzucato – a passage in which McCloskey and Mingardi quote from Herbert Spencer’s 1851 Social Statics (footnote deleted):
In 1850 the economist and ur-sociologist Herbert Spencer remarked that “trade regulations” like “many kindred contrivances for the management of social affairs,” are “all in essence idolatrous.” The word sounds odd to an age that has forgotten Christian theology, but pause before dismissing Spencer as the grumpy fool that historians of ideas believe he was, absent reading him. Note that “idolatry” means placing one’s proud human self, or a golden calf, in the place of the Lord thy God:
Scientifically defined, idolatry is a mode of thought under which all causation is attributed to entities. It results from the first generalization of the undeveloped intellect, which, having constantly seen results produced by visible, tangible objects, infers that all results are so produced. In the mind of the savage every effect is believed to be due to a special worker, because special workers have been observed to precede effects in a multitude of instances.
DBx: Support for protectionism and industrial policy reveals an intellectual inability to adequately understand emergent – “spontaneous” – orders. Such creationism is deeply and incurably unscientific, even when it is packaged – as it often is – with what are effectively theological “proofs” and devout professions of how a superhuman creature can use tariffs, quotas, and all manner of clever subsidies to consciously create for us humans something closer to heaven on earth.