Monday, August 09, 2010

Nobody’s In Charge?

perfect_storm Paul Seabright brilliantly sums up why I am often skeptical about the efficacy of politics as a means of implementing meaningful change:

Politicians are in charge of the modern economy in much the same way as a sailor is in charge of a small boat in a storm. The consequences of their losing control completely may be catastrophic (as civil war and hyperinflation in parts of the former Soviet empire have recently reminded us), but even while they keep afloat, their influence over the course of events is tiny in comparison with that of the storm around them. We who are their passengers may focus our hopes and fears upon them, and express profound gratitude toward them if we reach harbor safely, but that is chiefly because it seems pointless to thank the storm. (p. 25)

(HT William Easterly via Greg Mankiw via Peter Gordon)

1 comment:

thinking said...

It's a fair point.

Politicians do try to take credit for the good. Additionally, politicians try to assign the bad to their political opponents.

We the people like the myth of total control over our problems, and so we go along and believe that our political leaders can cure everything instantly.

This not only applies economically but to foreign and military policy as well. Witness the folly of the Iraq War where political leadership believed they had far greater control over events than what turned out to be true. We will pay for this misadventure dearly for decades, if not longer.

Witness the way some politicians think they can control and crack down on illegal immigrants, and also tend to paint it as some sort of panacea.

Witness the way some politicians think they deter terrorism by conflating terrorism with Islam and adopting an anti-Muslim stance.

In fact, these are reasons why the modern day Republican party is the least conservative of them all.