Big-government advocates will say that as society grows more complex, laws must multiply to keep up. The opposite is true. It is precisely because society is unfathomably complex that laws must be kept simple. No legislature can possibly prescribe rules for the complex network of uncountable transactions and acts of cooperation that take place every day. Not only is the knowledge that would be required to make such a regulatory regime work unavailable to the planners, it doesn’t actually exist, because people don’t know what they will want or do until they confront alternatives in the real world. Any attempt to manage a modern society is more like a bull in a darkened china shop than a finely tuned machine. No wonder the schemes of politicians go awry.
F.A. Hayek wisely said, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” Another Nobel laureate, James M. Buchanan, put it this way: “Economics is the art of putting parameters on our utopias.”
Barack Obama and his ilk in both parties don’t want parameters on their utopias. They think the world is subject to their manipulation. That idea was debunked years ago.
“With good men and strong governments everything was considered feasible,” the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. But with the advent of economics, “it was learned that ... there is something operative which power and force are unable to alter and to which they must adjust themselves if they hope to achieve success, in precisely the same way as they must taken into account the laws of nature.”
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