Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Trial and Error vs. Control
Or Evolution versus Planning.
This evolution of the extended order that lifted humans out of abject poverty and enables the survival of 6 billion people depended on individual autonomy and liberty. Experiments that made life better were copied by others; experiments that made things worse quickly ended. There was no guide, no plan, no elite guardians making sure things went well. In fact, history shows that progress halted when elites sought to control this evolving macro-cosmos.
“There is perhaps no single factor contributing so much to people's frequent reluctance to let the market work as their inability to conceive how some necessary balance, between demand and supply, between exports and imports, or the like, will be brought about without deliberate control.”
– F.A.Hayek “Why I am not a Conservative”
Control, however, is counter-evolutionary. Control means things are done because the controlling power thinks those things will work, not because they actually do work. Control exalts human ingenuity over the limitless possibilities of trial-and-error evolution.
Trade, and the wealth it brought, evolved and expanded without deliberate control, driven by the experimentation of individuals freely interacting with each other. The extended order that brings us wealth develops spontaneously among free people, and even pops up in the shadows (as black markets, smuggling, and underground economies) when people are controlled.
The Man with the Cape and Mask Doesn’t Like Not Being in Control
This has to drive the elites nuts. Especially those with the itch to tell others how to live. To them it is inconceivable (ref. Vizzini in The Princess Bride) that human prosperity might increase and poverty be eliminated without their guidance.
And to give them reasons to don their capes and masks to save us from ourselves.
Whenever the socialists, with their atavistic ideas that they imagine constitute progress, have gained power, two things happen:
1) Wealth declines. Countries that formerly exported foodstuffs face shortages and famines. This makes sense, of course: socialism is designed for small bands of people struggling to remain alive. Whenever socialism is fully implemented, the society gradually reverts to the condition where socialism actually works.
For a time socialist societies can make progress because they are an element of the macro-cosmos of the free market, they are subsidized by others, or they live off the capital accumulated before they became socialist. Isolated socialist societies, such as North Korea and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, quickly descend into poverty and misery.
2) An extended order of voluntary human interaction (also known as the “free market” or “Capitalism”) spontaneously organizes itself on the fringes and in the shadows (black markets, smuggling, etc. previously mentioned). To stamp out this individualism and maintain the purity of the communal paradise, the intellectuals running the State resorts to killing people. During the 20th Century, over 100 million people were murdered, in peace time, by their own governments trying to maintain the rules of the micro-cosmos (Socialism) throughout the larger community.
Progressive intellectuals (who think of themselves as “liberals” but are actually reactionaries trying to implement a Paleolithic social system) imagine that these things won’t happen when they are in charge and, if they do happen, it is because of evil Capitalists (see the essays on Manichaeism) conspiring to thwart the wonderful things they (the Progressives) are trying to achieve.
It never occurs to them that people like liberty and that free people spontaneously create free markets of complexity far beyond human apprehension.
Progressives also never imagine that whatever replaces the free market, the spontaneous and self-organizing system of voluntary human interaction for mutual benefit, will be unable to generate enough wealth to provide food for the current world population. The population will, over time, collapse leaving the remnant in the abject poverty we escaped when trade and the free market emerged.
But even free people feel an emotional attraction to socialism. It’s instinctive.