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State Planning, And Creationism

James Murdoch of News Corporation has delivered an an excellent and timely speech attacking the BBC and the massive level of state intervention in the British media. One point he makes is one I’ve made in arguments with statists and which I think needs to be emphasised more-

The consensus appears to be that creationism — the belief in a managed process with an omniscient authority — is the only way to achieve successful outcomes. There is general agreement that the natural operation of the market is inadequate, and that a better outcome can be achieved through the wisdom and activity of governments and regulators. This creationist approach is similiar to the industrial planning which went out of fashion in other sectors in the 1970s. It failed then. It’s failing now.

It has often struck me as ironic that technocratic “liberals” are generally hysterical defenders of the theory of evolution and derisive of creationists, and yet they entirely fail to grasp that their scepticism of markets and market forces is precisely the same reasoning as evolution scepticism; it is a disbelief that order can arise without planning. Using the theory of natural selection, we can understand how humanity, elephants, dung beetles and entire rain forests came into being without anybody, or any God, needing to sit down and write a specification and decide in advance that they would exist. Natural selection produced all these things, without any plan, starting with a few proto-bacteria. It’s amazing and astonishing, and counter-intuitive; but the evolution market did it all by itself.

But when one starts discussing economies, and markets, the same people who are maniacal promoters of natural selection suddenly turn into creationists; not only will they insist that state planning was behind every development and invention since the wheel, they will insist that the economy can neither work nor develop without the control of a benevolent god- or, a gaggle of philosopher kings- and snort derisively down their noses at the idea that mere market forces can result in order and advancement. Belief in the necessity of state planning is the same belief system as Intelligent Design. It amazes and depresses me how few educated intelligent people can understand this.

So well done for saying so James Murdoch. It’s something we need to hear more often.

Hat tip: Letters From A Tory

12 Comments

  1. Sam Duncan says:

    I’ve often thought along similar lines. But – and this is probably why I’m not a Prominent Public Figure – it never struck me to start calling leftists “economic creationists”. I will from now on. It’ll drive them spare

  2. Paul Marks says:

    Agreed – both with Ian B. and with Sam Duncan.

  3. CountingCats says:

    The problem is, people don’t understand Darwinism, they merely think they do. Even fully degreed up biologists I have met can talk about it superficially, but have no gut level appreciation of its implications.

    The manner in which order arises from anarchy in both the biological world and human social organisation, which includes economic activity, has been obvious to me for years, but I found it pointless to discuss because so few people truly appreciate what natural selection, in any context, can actually accomplish.

    A jibe I used for some time was to compare “The order which arises from anarchy, as opposed to the chaos which arises from planning.”

  4. That’s a very good point.

    As it happens, I despise the whole Murdoch empire, but as they are a free market business (to the extent that we have free markets in anything any more), I exercise my choice not to buy their newspapers or subscribe to Sky TV, which sort of proves his point.

    @CC, no I don’t understand the finer mechanics of evolution either, but if you look at stars and planets and observe how they rotate around each other, having formed over billions of years out of a gigantic cloud of dust or something, it does make you think that things tend to order themselves. I do like the final jibe.

  5. DavidNcl says:

    It was reading Herbert Spencer (who understood and wrote about natural selection before Darwin) that made me the free marketeer that I am today.

  6. С чистым юмором.

  7. TDK says:

    I see a flaw

    The market is the sum of all the human interactions. Each on its own is directed by some form of intelligence. No one intelligence directs the whole; but those little bits of intelligence create the whole.

    On the other hand no intelligence was involved in the direction of evolution either at the micro or macro level.

    I think your socialist would claim Apples and Pears.

    The idea that an intelligence designed everything is problematic but the idea that an intelligence designed, say a given bridge, is acceptable. I don’t need to know who designed a particular bridge to know that it was created by intelligence. An economic system appears to be an accumulation of intelligent decisions but in fact the market improves by trial and error. Traditional Socialists claimed that this was wasteful and a planned system would avoid the errors but we know now that this is false. The planners cannot know everything and cannot rid themselves of their biases. Planning fails because intelligence is limited. To claim, despite the evidence, that planning can succeed is to set oneself up as omniscient. In other words those who believe in planning believe themselves to be God

  8. Rich says:

    Good speech, but I bet the Murdochs would be the first to support further regulation in the media that cements their already monopolistic hold. The Ashes were a case in point – why should I pay for the whole Sky bundle just to watch OUR NATIONAL TEAM play AT HOME? If the BBC aren’t there to provide matches like that, what are they for?

  9. CountingCats says:

    And why shouldn’t any team be able to sell their broadcast rights to the highest bidder? Regardless of who the bidder is? Why should the BBC get preferential treatment?

  10. Rich says:

    The BBC shouldn’t exist. Sky only exist in the form they are because of the huge barriers to entry, government-imposed, of starting up a broadcasting station that is allowed to reach people. This starts from the auctioning off of radio spectrum to “preferred parties” (not necessarily the highest bidder, mind, but those prepared to operate in the public’s “best interests”), to banning of private broadcasting on UHF, and all the way up through the system. TV and radio, like the rest of our economy, in no way resembles a free market.

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    “OUR NATIONAL TEAM”

    There’s your problem right there. The ECB is a business, like Manchester United or BrawnGP. Its national monopoly status is granted only by the ICC. If a rival cricket organisation were to arise, there might be two “national” teams. It’s no more “ours” than those others I mentioned. There’s a motorsport series on Sky with nationally-based teams. Do we have a right to see that for free as well?

    Having said that, I think it was extremely short-sighted of the ECB to take live tests off free-to-air TV. I maintain very strongly that FTA is absolutely vital to any sport: it’s the casual viewers, ones who don’t want to make a commitment to paying to see every match, ones who stumble upon a game in progress and get hooked, ones who get caught up in the excitement over a particular match, who grow the market and become the people willing to pay to watch in the future. But it’s their call to make. (And, to be fair, the more established a sport, the less that principle applies. Channel 5 dropped live baseball this year. That’s a major problem for MLB, trying to grow the game in the UK. Presumably the ECB thinks cricket can take it. Charge what the market will bear.)

  12. Rich says:

    The ECB aren’t a business, they’re a “governing body.”
    Sky isn’t a business – its a state-enforced monopoly. If there were no regulations I’m sure there would be domestic channels showing whatever motorsport you wanted to watch.

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