Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Falling in love

The economy, dysfunctional inner city schools, unfunded social security and medicare liabilities, and incoherent health care policies make my big-four-elephants-in-the-room list of domestic problems. Higher taxes, protectionism, industrial policy, and throwing more money at failed programs and institutions with powerful lobbies are not promising antidotes. Ringing speeches that evoke "hope" and "change" and a dozen other platitudes cannot overcome the stunning mismatch between the problems and the policies.

The Republicans occasionally talked a good game but made a mess. They deserve what they got. But what about the rest of us? Why does politics (let alone ever more of it) make some of us queasy? One of the reasons is the ringing speeches and the emotional responses.

Here is Hayek's very useful (perhaps most underlined and cited) insight on the matter:

Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules. If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilisation), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings of make us wish we do, we would destroy it. Yet, if we were to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of world at once. To apply the name 'society' to both, or even to either, is hardly of any use, and can be misleading (The Fatal Conceit).

Only a skunk at a picnic (in Grant Park?) would cite this wisdom. It is much easier to just fall in love.