On page 210 of his otherwise-wonderful book Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars, Lee Billings lets slip a bit of hubris:
We are now beginning to appreciate the complexity of the Earth system, and we are faced with controlling that complexity.
This quote is evidence that Billings does not, in fact, appreciate the world’s complexity. Nothing can fully understand something more complex than itself. A human could not possibly understand, let alone control, something so vastly larger, older, and more complicated than he is.
As with the physical world, so with the social world. Peter Boettke counsels economists, who study social processes, to be students, rather than saviors. Bad things happen otherwise. Similar advice applies in this case to natural scientists.
This quibble aside, Billings has written an excellent book that is as well-written and personable as it is informative. I recommend it highly.
Peter Boettke describes Gordon Tullock’s public choice approach on p. 134 of his new book, Living Economics:
Politics is about concentrating benefits on well-organized and well-informed interest groups, and dispersing costs on the unorganized and ill-informed masses.
That’s precisely why non-political solutions to social problems are desirable wherever possible. When the universal human impulses of self-interest, rationality, and maximizing utility find themselves in an institutional environment like Congress or City Hall, corruption and special privilege are the results almost every time.
Markets respect no special interest. This is why failing companies swarm to Washington; government exists to cater to them.
The first project from EconStories. tv debuted today. It’s a rap video starring John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, called “Fear the Boom and Bust.” Amusing and deadly serious at the same time.
On a related front, Pete Boettke and Steve Horwitz have a new paper out applying a Hayekian view to the latest boom-and-bust cycle. It’s titled “The House that Uncle Sam Built,” and it’s worth reading.
Posted in Business Cycles, Economics, Great Thinkers
Tagged boom, Business Cycles, bust, econ stories, fear the boom and bust, fee, hayek, keynes, mercatus, peter boettke, russ roberts, steve horwitz