The Dow is still rising. It rose another 125 points yesterday… hitting a new record high.
Gold is dawdling.
We’re still thinking about how so many smart people came to believe things that aren’t true. Krugman, Stiglitz, Friedman, Bernanke — all seem to have a simpleton’s view of how the world works. They believe they can manipulate the future and make it better. Not just for themselves, but for everyone. Where did such a silly idea come from?
Aristotelian logic came to dominate Western thought after the Renaissance. It was essentially a forerunner of positivism — which is supposedly based on objective conditions and scientific reasoning. “Give me the facts,” says the positivist, confidently. “Let me apply my rational brain to them. I will come up with a solution!”
This is fine, if you are building the Eiffel Tower or organizing the next church supper. But positivism falls apart when it is applied to schemes that go beyond the reach of the “herald’s cry.”
That’s what Aristotle said. He thought only a small community could work at all. Because only in a small community would all the people share more or less the same information and interests. In a large community, you can’t know things in the same direct, personal way. So it’s hard for people to work together in the same way.
In a large community, you have no idea who made your sausage or what they put in it. You have to rely on “facts” that are no longer verifiable by direct observation or personal acquaintance.
Instead, the central planners’ facts usually are nothing more than statistical mush, wishful thinking or theoretical claptrap — like Weapons of Mass Destruction, the unemployment rate and the Übermensch.
Large-scale planning fails because the facts upon which it is built are unreliable, frequently completely bogus.
And it fails because people don’t really want it.
In a small community the planners and the people they are planning for are close enough to share the same goals. In a large community the planners are a small minority.
In a large community the planners usually have their own agenda… often a hidden one. They may call for more strict law enforcement, while getting campaign contributions from the prison industry. They may seek a cure for cancer, and depend on the pharmaceutical industry for job offers. They want a united Europe… and hope to be its head man.
But though large-scale planning provides almost countless opportunities for corruption, it’s not the dirty dealing that dooms it. Instead, it is that the planners don’t know (or care) what people really want… and don’t have the means or the information necessary to achieve it anyway.
As we have already seen, practically all the “public information” used by central planners is empty and most often misleading. But the problem is much more basic than the quality of the information or the corruption involved.
When we think of what people “want,” we are not really talking about their conscious, stated desires. We are speaking broadly of what they might be able to get… if allowed to do so… given the facts on the ground.
People in Hell may want ice cream; they won’t get it. But people will do the best they can with what they have to work with. Large-scale central planners can’t help them. Partly because they don’t know what the conditions in the man’s private Hell really are. And partly because they don’t have any ice cream.
You might better describe this process of getting as much of what you want as possible as the progress wrought by evolution, where trials and errors result in “the best we can do.”
Not perfect. Not the end of history. Just another step toward a future that is unknowable.
The Fatal Conceit
When you boil it down, large-scale central planners fail because they believe three things that aren’t true.
First, that they know current conditions (wants, desires, hopes, capabilities, resources). In other words, that they know the exact and entire present state of the community they are planning for.
Second, that they know where the community ought to go; that is, that they know what the future ought to be.
Third, that they are capable of creating the future they want.
None of those things is more than an illusion. Together, they constitute what F. A. Hayek called “the fatal conceit that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.”
As to the first point, central planners cannot know current conditions because that would require an infinite amount of information. It would require “minute knowledge of a thousand particulars which will be learnt by nobody but he who has an interest in knowing them,” wrote Samuel Bailey in 1840.
The planners have nothing like that. Instead, they have a body of public knowledge, which as we have seen is nothing more than popular theories, claptrap and statistical guesswork.
As to the second point — that the central planners are blessed with some gift that tells them what the future should be for complete strangers — we pass over it without argument.
No one really believes that people in the U.S. Congress or the French National Assembly… or in the bureaucracies and think-tanks of these nations… has anything more to guide him than anyone else (which is to say only his own likes and dislikes, prejudices and fears, and self-serving ambitions).
Of course, each man always does his best, at his own level, to shape his world in a way that pleases him.
One will want a fat wife… and likely get one. One will want a fortune… and maybe get it, if he is lucky and diligent. One will want to spend his time playing golf; that too, may be within his means. Each will try. Each will win… lose… or draw, depending upon the circumstances. And the future will happen.
The central planner steps in to try to impose his own version of the future. Evolution follows its own course, as the plans of individuals and groups succeed or fail.
Where evolution is taking us, no one knows. But the large-scale central planner thinks he knows where it ought to go… and he doesn’t mind giving it a shove, disrupting the plans of millions of people in the process.
As soon as the smallest bits of time and resources are shanghaied for the central planners’ ends rather than those of individual planners, the rate of evolutionary progress slows. The trials that would have otherwise taken place are postponed or canceled. The errors that might have been revealed and corrected are not discovered. The future will have to wait.
People are easy to deceive, especially when they only have access to “public information.” Out of range of the herald’s voice, they have no more idea of what is going on than the planners themselves.
They are encouraged to believe that the collective plans are beneficial. Often, they go along with the gag — for decades — even as the evidence of their daily lives contradicts its premises and undermines its promises.
That was the story in Russia and China after the communist takeovers — where the planners’ extravagant schemes endured 70 and 30 years respectively.
But not everyone goes along. When people resist, the planner sees them as obstacles to his success. Ruthless planners then begin purges, cleansings, regulations, famines, deportations, disappearances, tortures, drone attacks and mass murders to encourage compliance.
But their plans are wrecked anyway, because not only do they retard the future, they also don’t lead to the outcome the planners expect.
Breaking a Few Eggs
Typically, the designers argue that the people must make sacrifices but that it will all come right in the end. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs,” said Lenin.
People go along with breaking a few eggs (particularly if they belong to someone else) for a while. Ultimately, the problem is the omelet; it never makes it to the table. And the meal that ultimately does arrive is disgusting.
No “workers’ paradise” ever happens. The War on Drugs (or Poverty… or Crime… or Terror… or Cancer) ends in a defeat, not a victory. Unemployment does not go down. Or if any of these grand programs “succeeds,” it does so at a cost that is far out of balance with the reward.
Why do these plans fail? The simple answer is because that’s not the way the world works.
Life on Earth is not so rational that it lends itself to simpleminded, heavy-handed intervention of the naïve social engineer. Bridges are designed. So are houses. And particle accelerators. Economies are not. Neither are real languages. Customs. Markets. Love. Marriages. Children. Or any of the other really important things in life.
Not to overstate our case, however, it is also true that humans can design and achieve a certain kind of future. If the planners at the Pentagon, for example, decided that a nuclear war would be a good thing, they could bring it about. The effects would be huge. And hugely effective.
But this extreme example reveals the only kind of alternative future that the planners are capable of delivering, by pulverizing the delicate fabric of evolved civilized life.
It is a future that practically no one wants, because it means disrupting the private plans of most of the world’s people — for marriage, business, babies, baptisms, hunting trips, shopping, investment and all the other activities of normal life. Stopping those private plans means arresting the particular trials and errors of ordinary people upon which the civilized future depends.
Not all central planning produces calamities on that scale. But all, to the extent they are effective, are repulsive. The more they achieve the planners’ goals, the more they interfere with private goals… and the more they interfere with the progress of the human race.
Bill Bonnerfor The Daily Reckoning
Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning. Dice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010.
meh..Bill too many feathers not enough chicken. Explain instead how Bernanke has managed to run a perpetual money machine engine without having it spin out inflation. You know…like you always maintained that the new money would dilute the old bills. They are partinioning off the top tier cream and will be quite happy to dump the lower & middle classes.
They might be deluded (some, most of them) in that they have forgotten about the “ideal world” you were talking
about previously; deluded in that they might have forgotten that all of
their plans and the assumptions underlying them, can crash and burn at
virtually every turn. But Bill, you are deluded yourself if you believe that something like your ideal world (probably similar to Doug Casey’s idea of 7 billion nation states)
can ever exist for the human race (so that the progress of the human
race will no longer be interfered with, whatever that may mean). Why? The simplest argument is that if you want to build and do complex stuff, we will no longer be in the “herald’s cry” range.
The expertise required to do that cannot sit in a single human’s mind
and that complexity will need to be managed somehow. So it’s highly
doubtful Doug Casey’s world can ever exist, even if the whole planet
were populated by Bill Bonner-like and Doug Casey-like beings. So
basically the same thing preventing central planning from working, is
what’s preventing an utopian Doug Caseyian world to work, IF we are to
keep the current level of technological sophistication. So, it’s not like you’re
offering a real alternative that can work in the real world if you’re
proposing the “Doug Casey world”. The only thing you might realistically
propose (not that this prevents the human race from being doomed in the
worst case scenario) is more humility, so that they could remember their
plans and assumptions underlying them can crash and burn at virtually
Perpetual machines eventually slow down and stop. Always…
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Immemorial cultural relics such as kings and emperors practised
total central planning. I supposed. Some of these entrepreneurial
kingdoms or dynasties have operated for over 300 years as compared
to the United Enterprise incorporated 1789. Ageing 200 years old
is considered moderate longevity.
The narrow eccentric of material emphasis at times could be dampened
in view of impending national grave concern such as colonial aggression which
threatens a nation very own existent. Survivorship is at stake and the rights
to talk about higher priorities is certainly confiscated.
An entity that could go through the rough for 300 years certainly has the
reason to speak for itself and deserves praises. Don’t tell others that
you are suppressed for 300 years and that you are unable to pick up
your kitchen weapon.
Stand fast Bill. You and Doug shall prevail!
Terror is the only sure antidote for corruption. Just ask Peter Romanov or Joseph Stalin. Other alternatives include social conformity, which perished in the United States with the sexual revolution in late 1962. That said, it’s pretty hopeless. The only thing holding the ship of state together is the paradigm of the US dollar being a store of value. Once that is gone, as surely it will be gone eventually, there will be nothing left but chaos. Not that the rest of the world will notice much; especially since most of the jobs in the United States have already been shipped overseas.
I urge Bill to keep up the good work and the good fight as well. I do believe myself that his work is a positive for the world at this particular juncture in space and time
mr. bonner: you vill be crushed.
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Socialism, you eventually run out of other people’s money.
Except that Bill and Doug are not utopians.
SE has good 1/2 kg coffee’s
Buy 2 kg + cooker by mail.
only few people on plant.
But I buy 1/2 turkich roast for upside down cup
to see wether prognosis in TOZ
furuvik, has no more country fest,
but furuvik korv ( soss ) is GOOD
Picture this, a day in D.
( Family photo album, )
saab jas 30
R. Here we are.
i lost maria’s clip.
was it with eastwood…
She s not there….
The song is good….
Daddy won’t sell the farm.
( 9 )
Lucky to be here at all.
( I cited andertejkers… etc. )
She can not escape a sufi.
Sufi is chooser. What he wans he gets…
If the asset-debt system was allowed to collapse without central bank intervention(it won’t be), there may, literally, be an ensuing nuclear winter … The superrich, the speculators, the money is gold crowd, and the poor will all suffer more than need be.
Let there be money creation at this point by the central banks to allow a slower collapse of debt-default. The speculators can still make money without working .. if they have an understanding of the global asset-debt macroeconomic system…..
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Everything that Rises Must Converge
where can I read it?
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Maggie Thatcher did pretty well for herself and destroyed the lives of thousands. I’m all for using other people’s money when they stole it from the workers in the first place.
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Given a choice, Bernanke will likely strangle the currency (your money)... in favor of “strengthening” the economy.
Eventually, economic reality and markets will collide -- unfortunately, the higher the market, the harder the fall.
How certain business practices wind up jacking up costs before sticking you with the bill.
The Japanese Nikkei fell flat on its face overnight.
While Bernanke Runs Wild, Let’s Talk Ponies