Why Public Policy Disasters Happen

I think if there’s one breakthrough that I’ve made in my new book, it’s about civilization. And it came totally by accident. I was working on another idea altogether – it was the idea of Hormegeddon, how it happened, public policies, why they go bad, and all that kind of stuff. And in the course of it, this notion about how civilization arose and what role it plays and how it works came up, and I worked on it in the book and I was very happy with that result. I thought I’d made a real contribution to the history of thinking of civilization.

But anyway, we’re describing why it is that these things happen. And they happen because we’re bred for them. We’re made for them so when the guy comes into the village and says, “Another tribe is going to attack. What do we do?” We don’t sit down and say, “Well, what do you mean by ‘attack’? Is it really another tribe? What do you they really want? Why don’t we just sit down and talk to them?” No, we’re not bred for that at all. We’re bred – and those of us who did not do this, by the way, are now extinct. We’re bred to grab our shield and grab our sword and go and meet the enemy. And a man who doesn’t do that is a coward.

And that’s why, to this very day – here we are, thousands of years later – but we’re still supporting our troops even though if you sit down and think about it for a while, you’d say, “Why are we supporting our troops? What are they doing for us? It seems to me they’re just causing trouble, getting us into trouble and spending a lot of money we don’t have to spend.” But our instinct, our instinct, is to just put that bumper sticker on our bumper that says, “Support our troops.”

And we see a lot of things like that. Our whole society really is run more or less by groups of elites. And the groups of elites follow their own interests. They always have, always will. That’s the way government works. Government is a means of forcing people to do things, and you want to have government on your side.

So the elites run things and the typical person just has no idea. He reacts on emotion, not on real thinking. And so that’s how you get in these Hormegeddon situations. Once you’re getting into them, people want to see you continue. Everybody has an interest in it.

I wrote quite a bit about this, this idea of correction. In your personal life, if you do something stupid, like you invest badly, you run out of money. And the situation cures itself. The problem is gone. Or you do something really lunatic, like you think you can fly, you get up on top of a big barn and you start flapping your arms around and you jump off. The problem solves itself almost immediately. You don’t do that again.

But in public policy, it’s very, very different because in public policy, the policymakers think that humans can fly and so they order the public to get on top of tall buildings and they jump off, flap their wings and all die. And the policymakers then say, “Well, they didn’t do it right.” And so they get another bunch of people to get up on the thing, and it goes on and on.

But we see that in monetary policy, where they’ve been trying to cure this debt crisis with more debt now for the last five years, six years. And it doesn’t work but they just keep doing it. And now they’re announcing – now they’re hinting at another round of QE. Is there any evidence anywhere in the historical record that QE – money printing – actually makes anybody (other than the beneficiary) wealthier? Not that I know of.

If you could make a society richer by printing money, what would Zimbabwe be today? It would be a very different country. Look, but you can’t. And there’s no evidence anywhere in the historical record, which goes back a long, long time because the Romans were clipping the coins like 2,000 ago. It doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work. But it doesn’t stop people from wanting to do it.