L. Neil Smith's
Number 224, May 18, 2003


by Chris Claypoole

Exclusive to TLE

One old saying has it that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Another is that "What you don't know can hurt you." In my estimation, certainly not original, it is what you think you know that is wrong that is most dangerous and harmful, both to you and to others. We've all done things that we look back upon and say, "if only I had known . . ." But we learn from our mistakes, mostly, because we do not wish to repeat the pain (of whatever sort) we experienced.

Unfortunately, these rules seldom apply to the ruling class. By this, I mean the permanent government of bureaucrats and behind-the-scenes manipulators, not just the visible executives, legislators and judiciary. The latter can sometimes (read: seldom) be dis-elected or otherwise removed from office (we'll hold the discussion of federal judges for another day). It gets harder and harder to convince people that the policies of both wings of the Boot On Your Neck party are not in the best interest of most of us; the majority of the electorate think they know that the government is creating jobs, providing health care, emergency services, crime protection, etc. This, of course, is balderdash. Individuals provide all these and more, the government provides nothing except force and coercion to steal our property to pay those individuals, and keeps a big cut for those running this confidence scheme. The ignorance (not necessarily a pejorative term here, government schools are not about to teach these self-evident truths) of most of the populace, compounded by their belief that they think they know things they have been told by various sources, results in policies that hurt us all. Another saying: "I know people get the kind of government they deserve, but why do I have to get the government they deserve?"

Nor are the rulers immune from ignorance. Many of the policies implemented by both bureaucrats and elected officials are "well-intentioned" in that those pushing them actually think they know what the results will be. But ignorance of basic facts on their part brings them often to ruin. They usually ignore human nature, dynamic modeling (they assume people will not try to get around the new policy), economics, and the Law of Unintended Consequences, among other things. But, since they have attained the positions they occupy, they think they know more than those who are not among the ruling class. That is, the kind of person who does not have a burning desire to tell other people what to do. Certainly, some people seem to need some guidance in their daily lives. But it is no one else's right to tell them how to behave. Offer advice? Sure. It may be rude, but it is not coercion.

Most, if not all, of us know someone who is always offering advice "for your own good." I mean, besides your mother; that's her job. We usually think of these people as well-intentioned if occasionally annoying, especially when they are on target. (Yes, Katie, I know I'm fat. The fact that I haven't seen my belt buckle except in a mirror for years was my first clue.) We can usually put up with that kind of stuff when it's from family or friends. But when some meddling bureaucrat or lawyer wants to penalize my behavior because they think they know how I should live, that crosses the line. It is hubris for them to assume they know better than I do what will maximize my enjoyment of my life. It is theft and enslavement to force me to accept their vision.

Now, if an acquaintance of mine constantly offered such poor or intrusive advice, despite my subtle hints to mind his own business, I would sooner or later sever relations with him. If a business consultant or financial advisor gives consistently poor advice, he or she will lose business (unless they are a "stock analyst" — one more for the "to do" list). But bureaucrats, regulators, and other assorted busybodies, bluenoses, and blowhards, can make poor to disastrous decisions and never get called to account for their actions. Usually, they don't even admit or realize that what they did caused more problems. All because they think they know what they are doing and what the results of their meddling will be. They think they know all (or enough) information to understand the situation. They think they know what the solution is, and how to implement it. They think they know what the results will be, and either deny that there will be secondary and further effects or think they know what those will be. In fact, NO ONE can know enough about a situation in a society or economy as complex as ours to fully understand it and its interactions with the rest of the matrix. And even if they did, they don't have the right to impose their vision on the rest of us. Even if they think they know best.


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