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Toddler-like Thinking

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In my latest column for AIER I express my dismay at the jejune ‘thinking’ and commentary that passes these days for serious policy ‘analysis.’ [2] A slice:

Pay close attention to how the clerisy (who are mostly, although not exclusively, Progressives) propose to ‘solve’ almost any problem, real or imaginary. You’ll discover that the proposed ‘solution’ is superficial; it’s rooted in the naïve assumption that social reality beyond what is immediately observable either doesn’t exist or is unaffected by attempts to rearrange surface phenomena. In the clerisy’s view, the only reality that matters is the reality that is easily seen and seemingly easily manipulated with coercion. The clerisy’s proposed ‘solutions,’ therefore, involve simply rearranging, or attempting to rearrange, surface phenomena.

Do some people use guns to murder other people? Yes, sadly. The clerisy’s superficial ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw guns. Do some people have substantially higher net financial worths than other people? Yes. The clerisy’s juvenile ‘solution’ to this fake problem is to heavily tax the rich and transfer the proceeds to the less rich. Are some workers paid wages that are too low to support a family in modern America? Yes. The clerisy’s simplistic ‘solution’ to this fake problem – “fake” because most workers earning such low wages are not heads of households – is to have government prohibit the payment of wages below some stipulated minimum.

Do some people suffer substantial property damage, or even loss of life, because of hurricanes, droughts, and other bouts of severe weather? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem focuses on changing the weather by reducing the emissions of an element, carbon, that is now (a bit too simplistically) believed to heavily determine the weather.

Do prices of many ‘essential’ goods and services rise significantly in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters? Yes. The clerisy’s counterproductive ‘solution’ to this fake problem – “counterproductive” and “fake” because these high prices accurately reflect and signal underlying economic realities – is to prohibit the charging and payment of these high prices. When inflationary pressures build up because of excessive monetary growth, are these pressures vented in the form of rising prices? Yes indeed. The clerisy’s infantile ‘solution’ to the very real problem of inflation is to blame it on greed while raising taxes on profits.

Is the SARS-CoV-2 virus contagious and potentially dangerous to humans? Yes. The clerisy’s simple-minded ‘solution’ to this real problem is to forcibly prevent people from mingling with each other.

Do many Americans still not receive K-12 schooling of minimum acceptable quality? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem is to give pay raises to teachers and spend more money on school administrators.

Do some American workers lose jobs when American consumers buy more imports? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ is to obstruct consumers’ ability to buy imports. Are some people bigoted and beset with irrational dislike or fear of blacks, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw “hate” and to compel bigoted persons to behave as if they aren’t bigoted.

Do many persons who are eligible to vote in political elections refrain from voting? Yes. The ‘solution’ favored by at least some of the clerisy [3] to this fake problem – “fake” because in a free society each person has a right to refrain from participating in politics – is to make voting mandatory.

The above list of simplistic and superficial ‘solutions’ to problems real and imaginary can easily be expanded.

The clerisy, mistaking words for realities [4], assumes that success at verbally describing realities more to their liking proves that these imagined realities can be made real by merely rearranging the relevant surface phenomena. Members of the clerisy ignore unintended consequences. And they overlook the fact that many of the social and economic realities that they abhor are the result, not of villainy or of correctible imperfections, but of complex trade-offs made by countless individuals.