Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pot Luck or Banquet?

I've been thinking a lot about central planning versus spontaneous order lately, and wondering if my personal preferences are clouding my thinking.

For example, I like the typical pot-luck dinner better than the typical catered banquet. I like not knowing exactly what will be there, and I like trying new things. I don't like the "would you like the beef, chicken, or vegetarian?" question; I always want to answer "give me a little of all three."

My political preferences match my culinary tastes. I don't want to choose between Democrat and Republican, I'd like to have a little of each, please. And I don't want the government to create a least-offensive solution for whatever problem I might face, whether it's what kind of school my kids attend or what type of health insurance I think is best for me. I'd rather have a gloriously chaotic array of choices that I can try or ignore.

I'm probably atypical-- I bet most people would choose a safe, boring catered meal over a riskier but more exciting pot luck. I can hear them now: "What if everybody decides to bring a lime Jello® salad?" I suspect that the same type of irrational fear of the worst-case scenario drives a lot of government programs, policies and laws that I think we'd be better off without.

But maybe they're being perfectly rational, and they just value consistency and safety a lot more than I do. Either way, I kinda wish they'd stop making me pay for stuff I don't want...


Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, scariest sentence in the English language (although probably scarier in Russian or Chinese): “I’m here from the government and I’m here to help.”

Anonymous said...

As usual, Mr. Kelley regurgitates the conventional wisdom of the moment, thankfully this time without the usual dose of self-congratulation.

No, as a government official, and a member of law enforcement, I must say that a much scarier sentence is: "I'm here from the government, paid for by you, and I don't give a damn about you."

I understand that it's de rigeur in these years post-Reagan to trumpet one's own individualism and do the blanket bashing of government, not looking beyond the end of one's nose to see how others need a helping hand.

For example, thanks to the Confrontation Clause of the US Constitution, just about every violent criminal who is taken
off the street is done so through the courage of some unsung civilian who is willing to come forward to testify. That person needs help and support, from government.

The cliche phrases against government that we've all learned by heart often carry a grain of truth, but miss an awful lot that we take for granted.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

Let the record show Mr. Morse is a Government worker. Let the record further show, however, he does work on Bunker Hill Day.

Anonymous said...

Larry Kelly is ever so pleased when the government helps out, for example, the Chinese Charter school. What a hypocrite! No surprise there. He also can't take what he dishes out...

Gavin Andresen said...


Can we stick to talking about ideas rather than calling people names?

For example, you might have asked if Mr. Kelley thought charter schools are an example of the government being "here to help," and we could then have an interesting discussion of the difference between public schools (schools run by the government) and public education (education paid for by the government), and where charter schools fit within that spectrum of options.

Or, in other words, can we all please try to raise the level of debate instead of descending into a word-war of "you're an idiot" "No, YOU are!" "NO YOU ARE!!!!"