Hubris and Humility

Today’s Quotation of the Day comes from David Boaz from his October 7, 2015 Cato At Liberty article Whole Milk and Humility:

Let scientists conduct research, let other scientists examine it, let journalists report it, let doctors give us advice. But let’s keep nutrition – and much else – in the realm of persuasion, not force. First, because it’s wrong to use force against peaceful people, and second, because we might be wrong.

This is a perfect summation of both the moral and practical reasons why I advocate for free markets.  Free Market economics, aka laissez-faire, isn’t a policy per se, at least not in the sense universal health care or protectionism is.  It’s more of a philosophy.  Whereas universal health care and protectionism require action (the supply of health care or tariffs on imports, respectively), laissez-faire does not require action.  It is merely the idea that individuals should choose what is best for them.

Laissez-faire allows individuals to try and succeed or fail.  No single policy or procedure is imposed.  Instead, thousands or millions are tried.  Therefore, the fallout from any single failed attempt is rather limited.  If someone is wrong, the damage is largely contained to them.  This is not true in non-market settings.

Imagine if the world took Paul Ehrlich’s policy recommendations to solve over-population (forced sterilization, population control laws, etc) in the 1980’s.  His theories turned out to be wrong.  If his policies were implemented on a national or global level, needless millions of lives would have been destroyed, and the world would have become significantly poorer, rather than significantly richer.

Or, imagine if the theories of global warming are incorrect.  What if it’s not CO2 and greenhouse gasses that are causing the warming, but something else?  That would mean trillions of dollars would be spent fixing something that isn’t an issue, and the world would be poorer with nothing to show for it.

Free market economists, laissez-faire supporters, libertarians…we all take the approach of limited government influence because we know we could be wrong.  Each man should suffer for his own sins.  To make others suffer for his is tantamount to sin itself.