Thursday, April 08, 2010

Smart czars

Don't bite off more than you can chew.  That one makes the top 101 American-English proverbs and for good reason.  Witold Rybczynski describes city planners elevated to the growing Washington fraternity of czars.  And why not?  They deal in "smart plans." F.A. Hayek called attention to "fatal conceits".  He focused on the problems of socialism , but most grand plans (even "smart" ones) are subject to exactly the problems Hayek highlighted.

But perhaps it's a bigger phenomenon.  In some walks of life, defeats prompt retrenchment. ("Pivoting" in current discussions.)  But in other fields, frustrations with the smaller problems only whet the appetite for bigger ones.  In my city and state, officials cannot fix the potholes, so they focus on global warming.  Never mind that localities' impacts would be negligible absent the cooperation of, say, China.  The same folks cannot get the schools under their jurisdiction to adequately teach the basics so they focus on what students ingest at lunch and recess. 

And it seems to work.  We keep re-electing people of the same mind set.