We found the perfect thing to stimulate you for the weekend, dear reader. It’s in the New York Post — the seventh-most-widely circulated newspaper in the United States, founded by Alexander Hamilton: Good ideas evolve, so how come liberals believe in ‘creationist’ government? The newspaper doesn’t have a comments feature — at least not for that article.
We love their headline! Your humble Curmudgeon has previously written a time or two about this subject, and whenever we do it seems to infuriate our readers. See Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and Charles Darwin’s Natural Selection, where we said:
It has often been remarked that the theory of evolution, according to which life on earth evolves without the guidance of a designer, is remarkably similar to the way a free-enterprise economy develops, with each enterprise doing its best to prosper, yet without the “benefit” of a centralized planner.
And in one of our favorite posts, Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama, we said:
We suggest that Silicon Valley emerged in the complete absence of any stimulus package. Indeed, it probably emerged because there was no such package. Silicon Valley’s nurturing environment was a mix of entrepreneurial activity, venture capital financing, and an unregulated market. What we now know as Silicon Valley emerged without centralized planning — there was no “intelligent designer.”
Darwin’s undirected mechanism of natural selection is strikingly analogous to the free enterprise economy described by Adam Smith, who wrote:
[E]very individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. … [H]e intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
But you already know what your Curmudgeon thinks. Let’s see what the New York Post says about this subject. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
We know where humanity came from: It evolved incrementally, from the bottom up, amid much trial and error, not via the top-down efforts of an all-wise creator who anticipated every contingency and meticulously planned out every last detail. So why do we assume government, business and the economy operate this way?
We are in the throes of Curmudgeonly ecstasy — finally, someone in the press (Kyle Smith is the New York Post‘s film critic) is asking the right question! He quotes a lot from a book by Matt Ridley, who is “a longtime editor for The Economist.” Ridley’s book is The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge (Amazon listing). Smith tells us:
Far from searching for gods to explain every development, we should instead turn our attention to the smallest factors, many of them invisible. “When we find human culture being well adapted to solve human problems,” Ridley writes, “we tend to assume that this is because some clever person designed it with that end in mind. So we tend to give too much credit to whichever clever person is standing nearby at the right moment.”
Then there’s a long discussion of George Washington’s victory at Yorktown, and how it was really an outbreak of malaria among the British troops that forced Cornwallis to surrender to Washington. We never heard of that, and it’s not important for our purposes here. Let’s read on:
The Internet is a similar story; Al Gore and Barack Obama brag that the government created it. The truth is that it wasn’t until government got out of the way that what was once the Arpanet, a Pentagon creation, evolved into the Internet. “If you really want to see the Arpanet as the origin of the Internet,” Ridley asks, “please explain why the government sat on it for 30 years and did almost nothing with it until it was effectively privatized in the 1990s, with explosive results.”
Until 1989, the government actually prohibited Arpanet from being used for private or commercial ends. Ridley quotes a handbook distributed to MIT users of the Arpanet that read, in the 1980s, “sending electronic messages over the Arpanet for commercial profit or political purposes is both antisocial and illegal.”
That’s accurate history. Then he gives an example we like even better:
Consider the divergence of South Korea and Ghana, two countries that had about the same per capita income as recently as 1950. One chose trade, the other picked aid. Aid creates lots of fun jobs for central planners who use people like chess pieces and figure out how to distribute the wealth from the top, whereas trade simply allows for wealth to rise up from the bottom. Aid, it turns out, is simply an unsustainable solution to poverty, and today South Korea has about 10 times the per-capita income of Ghana. South Korea has become one of the richest and most technologically advanced countries in the world since it embraced free trade in the 1950s.
Nicely said. We’ve written about even more persuasive examples in a post which drove all of you crazy: Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber? After discussing Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, where he sailed down the Ohio River and described the differences between Ohio and Kentucky which were due solely to slavery, we said:
There are “Petri dish” examples which can be profitably studied regarding side-by-side societies in which the sole difference is socialism. The one which today is most striking is North and South Korea. What would Tocqueville make of a journey between them along the 38th Parallel? Several other examples have existed and are still worth studying: East and West Germany being a good one. Do today’s “social scientists” ever undertake such studies?
That’s enough of the Curmudgeon’s writing. Let’s continue with the New York Post article. This is where it gets good:
Fans of state intervention in the economy — call them government creationists — insist on giving as much power as possible to an all-wise, all-powerful daddy figure whom they elect to, for instance, “fix” climate change or health care with a top-down agenda restricting innovation and imposing ever-more regulations. Their enemy is experimentation, incremental change — evolution.
“Government creationists” — what a great phrase! Here’s the end of the article:
Their intelligent designs turn out to be incredibly stupid in practice, and for their failures the central planners expect to be rewarded with more and more power. As British politician Douglas Carswell says in “The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy,” planners “consistently underrate the importance of spontaneous, organic arrangements and fail to recognize that the best plan is often not to have one.”
So there you are. That may have ruined your weekend, but it was great for us. Now, if it’ll make you feel better, go ahead and argue for government creationism. Your Curmudgeon is amazingly tolerant.
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