Jewish World Review July 9, 2010 / 27 Tamuz 5770
See You Next Tyranny Day!
By Jonah Goldberg
If only the Founding Fathers had included an annual "Tyranny Day" in the Constitution. Every 364 days America could debate and scheme, pitting faction against faction, governmental branch against governmental branch, and on the 365th day the Supreme Soviet of
Now, just for the record,
Now, I bring all of this up for a couple reasons. The first is that I am mildly obsessed with
But it's also worth noting that Friedman is hardly alone. He may stretch his argument to the point of parody, but he shares a widespread view that the "experts" have all the answers and the "system" is holding them back.
Such arguments are as old as they are dangerous. And they are arrogant beyond description. People like Friedman automatically assume that their preferred policies are so obviously right, so objectively enlightened, that there's no need to debate them or vote on them.
Such arguments are usually deployed to avoid valid criticisms, not because there are none. Indeed, the Obama White House virtually lives by such claims. All of the experts agreed that their stimulus would work; that Obama's version of healthcare reform was both necessary and popular, that weaning the U.S. from fossil fuels will create "green jobs." The evidence on all of these fronts is mixed or weak and yet the president insists constantly that he doesn't want to hear from people who disagree with him on these issues because all the facts are in.
Such arrogance is dangerous. The literature on the unintended consequences of policies crafted by experts is at least as old as the field of economics. Frederic Bastiat, the great 19th-century economist, noted that all that separated the good economist from the bad is the ability to appreciate the possibility of the unforeseen. Nobel Prize-winning economist
But forget all that. Let's get back to those evil plastic bags. A new study from the
No, this doesn't mean we should abandon reusable bags, let alone ban them too on next year's Tyranny Day. People can clean the bags and solve the problem. That's a hassle, to be sure. But that's the point. There's always going to be a downside to even the best policies, because the experts don't know as much as they think they do. Sometimes, they don't even know they're not experts at all.
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