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How Smart Are We? (Elites think they can make better decisions for millions of other people)
National Review ^ | 07/27/2010 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 07/27/2010 7:06:34 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Many of the wonderful-sounding ideas that have been tried as government policies have failed disastrously. Because so few people bother to study history, often the same ideas and policies have been tried again, either in another country or in the same country at a later time — and with the same disastrous results.

One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control, and plan economic and social policies so that there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course. It sounds so logical and plausible that demanding hard evidence would seem almost like nit-picking.

In one form or another, this idea goes back at least as far as the French Revolution in the 18th century. As J. A. Schumpeter later wrote of that era, “General well-being ought to have been the consequence,” but “instead we find misery, shame and, at the end of it all, a stream of blood.”

The same could be said of the Bolshevik Revolution and other 20th-century revolutions.

The idea that the wise and knowledgeable few need to take control of the less wise and less knowledgeable many has taken milder forms — and repeatedly with bad results as well.

One of the most easily documented examples has been economic central planning, which was tried in countries around the world at various times during the 20th century, among people of differing races and cultures, and under governments ranging from democracies to dictatorships.

The people who ran central planning agencies usually had more advanced education than the population at large, and probably higher IQs as well.

The central planners also had far more statistics and other facts at their disposal than the average person had. Moreover, there were usually specialized experts such as economists and statisticians on the staffs of the central planners, and outside consultants were available when needed. Finally, the central planners had the power of government behind them to enforce the plans they created.

It is hardly surprising that conservatives, such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Pres. Ronald Reagan in the United States, opposed this approach. What is remarkable is that, after a few decades of experience with central planning in some countries, or a few generations in others, even Communists and socialists began to repudiate this approach.

As liberals replaced central planning with more reliance on markets, their countries’ economic-growth rates almost invariably increased, often dramatically. In the largest and most recent examples — China and India — people by the millions have risen above these countries’ official poverty rates, after they freed their economies from many of their suffocating government controls.

China, where famines have repeatedly ravaged the country, now has a problem of obesity — not a good thing in itself, but a big improvement over famines.

This has implications far beyond economics. Think about it: How was it even possible that transferring decisions from elites with more education, intellect, data, and power to ordinary people could lead consistently to demonstrably better results?

One implication is that no one is smart enough to carry out social engineering, whether in the economy or in other areas where the results may not always be so easily quantifiable. We learn, not from our initial brilliance, but from trial-and-error adjustments to events as they unfold.

Science tells us that the human brain reaches its maximum potential in early adulthood. Why then are young adults so seldom capable of doing what people with more years of experience can do?

Because experience trumps brilliance.

Elites may have more brilliance, but those who make decisions for society as a whole cannot possibly have as much experience as the millions of people whose decisions they preempt. The education and intellects of the elites may lead them to have more sweeping presumptions, but that just makes them more dangerous to the freedom, as well as to the well-being, of the people as a whole.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: elites; freedom; government; individualism; iq; smart

1 posted on 07/27/2010 7:06:38 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

May he live long and prosper...Thomas Sowell is a national treasure...which is why the MSM ignores him.

2 posted on 07/27/2010 7:13:46 AM PDT by Keith (We live in an America of National Socialism...sound familiar? It should...)
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To: SeekAndFind

We need to quit looking at IQ’s and arguing who is the smartest, and just look at the outcome of the polcies of the left...stupid is, as stupid matter how many Harvards, degrees, or IQ scores.

3 posted on 07/27/2010 7:17:07 AM PDT by FrankR (It doesn't matter what they call us, only what we answer to....)
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To: SeekAndFind

The power of distributed networking is far greater than that of centralization. It’s true in computers. It’s true in government.

4 posted on 07/27/2010 7:23:20 AM PDT by Personal Responsibility (The problem isn't that 1% of muslims are terrorists. The problem is 99% of terrorists are muslim)
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To: SeekAndFind
Intelligence by itself is like a parlor trick. I've seen hardwork trump intelligence time & again.

It's been said that there's an inverse relationship between happiness and intelligence and my theory would be that if it's true, it's ego driven with side order of self dillusion (i.e. because I'm smart, I should...people should...things should be like this....

Remember the Charles Atlas bully ads where the muscle bound thug kicks sand in the skinny guys face? How many times have you seen someone who's impressed with their own intelligence "kick sand" in the face of someone considered to be less intelligent. It's the same reprehensible behavior.

5 posted on 07/27/2010 7:29:39 AM PDT by Sax
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To: SeekAndFind

These “intellectuals” are cut from the same cloth as those that gave us the Soviet Union and Communist China.

God, please save us from these meddling, self-important, prideful, STUPID busybodies.

6 posted on 07/27/2010 7:32:07 AM PDT by Westbrook (Having children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Friederich Hayek, paraphrased:

The only thing worse than stupid people making decisions for themselves is intelligent bureaucrats making decisions for them.

At least the stupid person can learn from his mistakes, while the intelligent bureaucrat does not suffer the consequences of his failures and therefore never learns.

7 posted on 07/27/2010 7:59:22 AM PDT by Uncle Miltie (How many plagues must Phara0bama bring before he Let's The People Go?)
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To: Westbrook

“These “intellectuals” are cut from the same cloth as those that gave us the Soviet Union and Communist China”

And were among the first shot.

8 posted on 07/27/2010 8:48:19 AM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: SeekAndFind
The just purpose of government, any government is succinctly expressed in our Declaration:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Our government is thus twice limited, by purpose (to secure our inalienable rights) and by consent of the governed. This philosophy was followed for almost 150 years and produced the happiest, most productive people on earth.

History has shown us the the end points of a government limited by natural law or one imposed by the whims of central planners. We are so screwed.

9 posted on 07/27/2010 10:54:34 AM PDT by Jacquerie (More Central Planning is not the solution to the faiures of Central Planning)
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To: SeekAndFind


10 posted on 07/27/2010 9:33:29 PM PDT by Christian4Bush (Mike/Chris Wallace: Did you give in? Palin: "HELL NO!" 98 days til the midterms, if they're held..)
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