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Monday, October 27, 2003


The Sunday New York Times Magazine section had an article about the rise in cannibalism in parts of Africa. It seems that there is a resurgence in the belief that one gains power by eating the flesh and especially internal organs of a slain enemy. We sophisticates think that this is all rather primitive and mystical. The rationalistic thinking of the Enlightenment went further by considering the received truths of all religion to be mystical and unwarranted. Never mind that the major monotheistic reliqions of the past few thousand years gave most people a universal set of morals. The lost faith in a set of revealed truths has set many people in search of new beliefs. As mentioned in earlier posts, Statism, the belief in the state/government as the solution to all problems in society, is the new accepted faith for many people. I think this a big part of Diane Feinstein's complaints over the Janice Rogers Brown speech mentioned in Bret's post - Bush Judicial Nominee Slammed.
Certainly the richness of civil society in mid-1800's America marveled at by Alexis DeTocqueville in his book Democracy in America would lend considerable support to JRB's(Janice Rogers Brown) views.

There are a number of beliefs expressed explicitly and implicitly in the public forum that are essentially mystical in nature. One myth repeated over and over again is the idea that a balanced budget is the sine qua non of fiscal responsibility. I'm sure that everyone on this blog who believes this bought their house for cash, no mortgage. This view ignores the impact of the policy mix on the larger private sector, the wealth generating sector. If you want to rethink this view, spend some time looking at this website about debt,deficits and growth. There is some partisan material on this site, but if you can get past that there is much to learn. Another implicit myth is that regulations(labor,health, environmental...) involve only benefits and no costs. Isn't it wonderful that we don't have to make tradeoffs? Another myth is based on a zero-sum mentality. If an individual or a nation is wealthy then somehow that must cause other individuals or nations to be poor. Wealth generation is not a zero-sum game. Much of the thinking about helping developing economies simply ignores reality. Fortunately, the late Peter Bauer breaks through this "unreality" in much of his work. His From Subsistence to Exchange is a worthwhile read. Yet another great myth might be called "the garden of eden view". Once upon a time life was wonderful and idyllic but then the evil capitalists came along and exploited the hell out of everyone. Many people believe this but with considerable variation in degree. I'm just getting warmed up but I'll leave this alone for now.

ps Jim, I am averse to grand centralized plans but not to lots of little experiments or additional impowerment of individuals where the individuals are the decision makers

pps re taxes, even if you don't care about your tax cut, putting more resources back in the hands of individual decision makers to deal with spending, saving and investing will have a positive impact through more flexibility and diversification...

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