Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Government meddling only makes things worse

When it comes to the functioning of a free society there are some rules that hold true even if we choose to ignore them. Freedom works best when there are a basic set of rules that govern conduct. Whether we are talking about not punching your neighbor in the nose or how things are owned the rule of law must define what is appropriate.

The rule of law--like the rules of a game, say baseball--defines the boundaries for play and how the game is played, but it is not the same as playing the game. Once the boundaries and rules are set referees enforce the rules when the game is played, but neither the rule makers nor the referees tell the players what strategies to employ.

Even though central planning has failed dramatically during the 20th century--Soviet Union and Communist China are two large examples--there is a group of intellectuals within our society that believe some social functions must be provided by the rule makers rather than the players. In fact they believe the rule makers can provide better service than the players. There are so many examples of this in our society it's impossible to list them all, but a few recent examples include the No Child Left Behind requirements for public schools, health care requirements enforced by government and the economic stimulus package just approved by President Bush.

The temptation, by those who are elected or appointed to serve in government, to believe that if really smart people --defined as them--do the central planning it will work, but there is an inherent flaw in this reasoning. Thomas Sowell explains why even the very smartest can never know enough to efficiently manage the entire economy.

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