Early in the interview, Cristiano asked me a question that concerns a fundamental problem in American politics — how American politicians over and over make things worse when they say they are trying to make things better. Cristiano observed that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump say they want “to make America greater and better and whatever, more prosperous” and propose accomplishing this goal via solutions that “always include another government program” despite the US government being bankrupt. Cristiano continued to note that he very rarely hears “any government official saying ‘the only way we can get out of this is if we get government out of the way.’” Yet, even when he hears that, Cristiano says, “right after that then they talk about another government program that will cost another $50 billion or whatever the case may be.”
Asked by Cristiano “how do we break through” this situation with politicians always wanting to add to government but not subtract, I answered as follows:
Well, you’re right: That is the typical politician way. They don’t have the humility to say that, even though they have this ultimate power, they don’t have the solution.Listen to the complete interview here:
The solutions to problems are dispersed throughout the people in the country. And if the government stepped back, then things would improve, through people taking their own initiative and through the free market, and from the fact that if the government were able to step back and not spend the money there would be more resources on hand for individuals to solve their own problems. There would be less police standing in the way to enforce needless regulation and enforce laws against nonviolent conduct such as consuming drugs or gambling.
So, there is this fatal conceit that Friedrich Hayek, for example, talked about that these politicians have, and they think that they can solve all the problems. You know, it’s not a bad phrase to say, 'Make America great again.' But, the problem is that a politician — whether it’s Donald Trump who uses that phrase or Hillary Clinton who doesn’t use the phrase but thinks the same thing — they say that to make America great they just have to use this enormous power in a different way than people have used it before. And they think that if only the right people were in positions of power that then America would be great.
And that’s giving them the greatest benefit of the doubt, because sometimes they really don’t even want to make things better for the average person. Many times, politicians’ interests are to make things great for the connected special interests, for the military-industrial complex, for the pharmaceutical companies that send the lobbyists around. But, even giving them the greatest benefit of the doubt, it is a failing proposition for them to through political action and increasing government make America great again.
For an introduction to Hayek’s thoughts related on the topic of my answer to Cristiano’s question, read below the conclusion of Hayek’s 1974 speech upon his receipt of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences:
If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever-growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, "dizzy with success," to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.
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