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Avoidance Of Truth

An interesting essay from Arnold Kling:

One of my strongly-held beliefs, for which I tend to attract supporting evidence and repel contrary arguments, is that markets process information more effectively than does the political process. Perhaps it as an exaggeration to refer to the market as the "world of truth," as Tim Harford does in The Undercover Economist. However, it strikes me that it is easier for market forces to drive a bad firm out of business than it is for political forces to extinguish a policy that fails to meet the objectives that purportedly drive its enactment.

Those who believe in the wisdom of the political process might argue that the competition between political elites--between Democrats and Republicans or between Krugman and Limbaugh--promotes reasonable outcomes. However, I suspect that the net result of this competition is to lead to greater accretion of government power, giving the elites more to fight over. Politics ultimately becomes a competition to promise the undeliverable, whether it be better public education, inexpensive health care, or government suppression of drug abuse or sexual immorality.

Emphasis mine. That's why it's so important to get a private space industry going. A government space program will inevitably be captured by its rent seekers, and be almost invariably ineffective (and even counterproductive) in its stated goals, particularly given how unimportant those goals are to the body politic.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 05, 2007 06:54 AM
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Arnold Kling has a libertarian take on the fundamental hypothesis that only about 10% of the population invest any real energy in politics. And of that decimal, each of the paired-off opponents tend to give their own predilections an overwhelming bias in sorting out new information. As Kling succinctly sums up:

The masses' strategy for avoiding truth is to make a low investment in understanding; the elites' strategy is to make a large investment in selectively choosing which facts and arguments to emphasize or ignore.

So we have Matthew Arnold's "ignorant armies" on a "darkling plain." Or do we?
I believe in democracy because I distrust the elites. I distrust the elites because I believe that self-deception is widespread, and the elites are particularly skilled at it. Accordingly, I believe that it is important for those in power to have the humility of knowing that they may be voted out of office.

Others believe in democracy because they are hoping to see the triumph of a particular elite. Many liberals want to see sympathetic technocrats manipulating the levers of government, nominally for the greater good. I see government technocrats as inevitably embedded in a political system that inefficiently processes information. The more they attempt, the more damage they are likely to do.[MY EMPHASIS] Many conservatives want to see government used for "conservative ends." However, I believe that the more that government tries to correct the flaws of families, the more flawed families will become.
"That government governs best which governs least," said Honest Abe, before the onset of the colossal catastrophe which post-war American government has become. I thank God daily for Medicare, but a single-payer system would be Iraq times ten, a catastrophe which would make Canadian wait-times move from months to years, just to take one example.

I worked for the US government for over a decade, and dealt with it in one way or another for three on a working basis. The bigger government is, the worse it operates. When I was a Beltway Bandito working with Booz Allen Hamilton, I learned of an unpublished study concerning the Pentagon which had been sponsored and paid for by the military itself. It concerned how best to cut back the size of the military bureaucracy. [This was in the early days of the Reagan presidency.] My fellow consultant-informant told me that the study had suggested that ANY WAY that personnel would be cut back would be preferable to the overpopulation of military technocrats and bureaucrats now functioning in the DC area. Indeed, the suggestion was made in the study [never published] that in the interests of efficiency and economy, it would be better if one out of every three names, regardless of rank or position, would be randomly selected out of the Pentagon phonebook and dismissed from their job than it would be to let the bloated payroll/personnel size be maintained at previous levels. This was obviously meant to make a point and not to be carried out, but the study never saw the light of day. I wonder why and who killed it?

Urban legend?

"And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."
Welcome to the post post-modern world. Posted by daveinboca at January 5, 2007 02:08 PM

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