Even where it’s comply-or-die, wholesale planning is folly

From Jonah Goldberg’s (kinda) weekly G-File email:

But at the heart of conservatism is a healthy skepticism about the technocratic romanticism that says people are like cogs for the smart set to arrange. Whether it’s Edmund Burke talking about the variety and mystery of human existence or Friedrich Hayek explaining the knowledge problem or your grandmother telling you that God laughs at those who plan, the point is the same. Forces great and small outside your control get a vote in how your life turns out and they cannot be reliably brought to heel.

Whatever Obama’s will, the mere application of it to the machinery of the state in no way guarantees he will see it realized. Lenin was very smart and yet he continually failed to join the crooked timbers of humanity into the right angles he so admired. And while Stalin wasn’t as bright as Lenin, he had the advantage of absolute and total power over his country (which is a nice thing to have, though a terrible thing to give anyone (but me!)). And yet the bologna of humanity rejected the grinder of Communism.

In North Korea three generations of dictators have dedicated themselves to making their country a technologically advanced and prosperous superpower. And yet, in Pyongyang, they would kill for a website that worked as well as Healthcare.gov (or, in fairness, for a bowl of rice).

Mao killed tens of millions of his own people to “prove” that collectivization works and capitalism doesn’t. How’d that work out? Well, today you can buy a great Mao T-shirt at one of Walmart’s many downtown Beijing locations.

I’m not comparing Obama to Stalin, Lenin, or Mao (people on the right do way too much of that). I’m simply making the point that even in countries where they have a comply-or-die system, designed to make it as easy as possible to impose one man’s will on a society, wholesale planning is still impossible folly. Even if Obama were the polymathic, superwonk, light-bringing übermensch wunderkind badass he seems to think he is, it’s very, very unlikely he’d succeed in fulfilling crazy outside-of-the-box schemes, because our entire system is set up to thwart and stymie people with crazy outside-of-the-box schemes. Indeed, it’s stymied better men than Obama.

That’s because it’s not just Obama who isn’t smart enough to plot out every move and counter move in a 300 million piece 3-D chessboard where the pieces can move themselves, form coalitions, and act on both rational interests and irrational desires while also interacting with the billions of pieces on other boards.

No one is that smart, except God — and He’s too busy laughing.

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