We don't need anyone to run the world

October 17, 2008 2:27 PM

John Stossel, in the Wall Street Journal, makes a powerful case that attempts to control by regulation activities that are regulated by spontaneous order are usually doomed to fail:

"Most of life works by spontaneous order. It characterizes how we choose our jobs, hobbies, associates, recreation, etc. When politicians try to regulate the process, they usually make life worse.


I try to demonstrate that in my upcoming ABC TV special, "John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics." I centrally planned a skating rink, and stood in the center of the ice and shouted through a bullhorn: "Slow down! Turn right. No backwards skating!" It didn't work. People hated it. Some fell, just as predicted by George Mason University professor Daniel Klein, who came up with the idea.


Had I been directing an economy, politicians would say that I failed because I'm not smart enough. They'd demand that we elect an expert. So I gave the bullhorn to Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano. He did no better. Even a genius, or an angel, will lack knowledge of the individual skater's situation. It changes moment by moment. Mr. Boitano and I had no clue who was off-balance, who wanted to speed up, who needed a bathroom break. The skaters each perceived the situation as it happened, and followed their own principles of motion.


Most skaters ignored Mr. Boitano. He told me, "They want to do their own thing." "Yeah," replied one woman, "I don't wanna do it if someone's telling you what to do." Freedom is a good reason not to interfere. Still, we're told that the government must regulate the economy. Barack Obama says today's economic problems are "a stark reminder of the failures of . . . an economic philosophy that sees any regulation at all as unwise and unnecessary."


But governments have regulated and subsidized the housing and financial industries for years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created to interfere in those markets. Had actual private companies invested in those mortgages, they would have been subject to market checks. But they were not. The results were predictable."

John Stossel, in the Wall Street Journal, makes a powerful case that attempts to control by regulation activities that are regulated by spontaneous order are usually doomed to fail:

"Most of life works by spontaneous order. It characterizes how we choose our jobs, hobbies, associates, recreation, etc. When politicians try to regulate the process, they usually make life worse.


I try to demonstrate that in my upcoming ABC TV special, "John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics." I centrally planned a skating rink, and stood in the center of the ice and shouted through a bullhorn: "Slow down! Turn right. No backwards skating!" It didn't work. People hated it. Some fell, just as predicted by George Mason University professor Daniel Klein, who came up with the idea.


Had I been directing an economy, politicians would say that I failed because I'm not smart enough. They'd demand that we elect an expert. So I gave the bullhorn to Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano. He did no better. Even a genius, or an angel, will lack knowledge of the individual skater's situation. It changes moment by moment. Mr. Boitano and I had no clue who was off-balance, who wanted to speed up, who needed a bathroom break. The skaters each perceived the situation as it happened, and followed their own principles of motion.


Most skaters ignored Mr. Boitano. He told me, "They want to do their own thing." "Yeah," replied one woman, "I don't wanna do it if someone's telling you what to do." Freedom is a good reason not to interfere. Still, we're told that the government must regulate the economy. Barack Obama says today's economic problems are "a stark reminder of the failures of . . . an economic philosophy that sees any regulation at all as unwise and unnecessary."


But governments have regulated and subsidized the housing and financial industries for years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created to interfere in those markets. Had actual private companies invested in those mortgages, they would have been subject to market checks. But they were not. The results were predictable."

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