It reminds me of what Thomas Sowell says about planned economies: every economy is planned. It's just a matter of who does the planning, unaccountable elites or private parties.
It indeed comes down to knowledge and power -- the power to be the decider. For example, Obama and the Democrats have the power to define what constitutes economic knowledge of medical costs. However, as in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the more centralized power one exerts over economic realities, the less knowledge one has of them. Total power -- as in totalitarian states -- equates to total ignorance of price signals, and therefore of economic realities of supply, demand, scarcity, etc.
Moreover, the power is only illusory anyway, because there is no way for any human being, or even the most powerful computer, to ever calculate the potential interactions of millions of independent prices. That knowledge is essentially infinite, and therefore requires omniscience to calculate. It is not even calculation, just -- to use the technical term -- bullshitting.
To which Obama responds, "your point being?"
Fantastic book, by the way. Sowell says it's his most important work, and I can see why, as it lays the philosophical groundwork for everything he's written since then (it was originally published in 1980). It is not as reader-friendly as his more recent books, and I'm probably going to reread it before discussing it at length and weaving it into the cosmic narrative. Nor would he ever think of it in those grandiose terms, i.e., "cosmic narrative."
Rather, grandiosity and sweeping generalizations are our department. Which is a quasi-joke, but not really, because if a culture isn't grounded in a kind of grandiose narrative that explains where we came from, where we are, and where we're going -- the Point of it All -- it tends to decay.
The left, of course, has spent the last century or so trying to replace our old cosmic narrative with their new and improved version, but the problem there, as alluded to at the top of this post, is that it is simultaneously -- to reference another of Sowell's books -- "unconstrained" while at the same time being highly constraining because it is forced upon us.
What do we we mean by that? To quote the first reviewer, "This book presents two visions of the world.... The two visions are metaphysical, pre-scientific points of view regarding how the world works. In one view (Unconstrained), people can drive change, intentions matter, and this could improve the world. In the other view (Constrained), people will always be (somewhat) bad, only results and processes matter, and improvements always involve tradeoffs."
Visions of how the world works. That goes to what was said above about who gets to define reality, but more importantly, who gets to define the reality in which we are all forced to live. For example, I live in California, a one party state in which no one has any input except for the unconstrained visionaries who want to control every aspect of our lives.
In California the Democrats even veto God, and insist that we decide what sex we are. So it's really "unconstrained for thee but not for me." The hypocrisy is built in, because it's never "power to the people" but "power to the right people."
The other day I mentioned the obnoxious book on Indians my son is being forced to read. That's because in California it's against the law for a textbook to tell the truth -- or to not speak with a forked tongue -- about any officially sanctioned victim group. Likewise, everything Obama does is to insulate centralized state decision makers from public influence.
That little preamble was provoked by the following passage in Inventing the Individual: "Since the time of Paul, Christian thought has been directed to the status and claims of humans as such, quite apart from any roles they happened to occupy in a particular society." Therefore, "It is hardly too much to say that Paul's conception of deity provided the individual with a freehold in reality" (emphasis mine).
¡Una freeholdia de reality! That is a remarkable observation, for among other things, it "laid a normative foundation for the individual conscience and its claims." Truly, this turned the world upside down -- or brightside up, rather -- because it created limits on the state's power to define reality and force it on the restavus.
Reality has many dimensions, both horizontal and vertical. For example, thanks to the state, we are never even freeholders of our own land, in that (at least in California) we must pay an annual property tax to pretend to call it our own. Nor do children have a right to the truth about, say, American Indians, or Islam, or homosexuals. As such, it is as if the state has a claim on that part of your child's mind.
I'm just about out of time for today, but the thought occurs to me that if we knew in 1900 what we know today, the left could be declared unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. Why? Because the economy is an information system that continuously conveys the facts about economic reality via prices. Therefore, to interfere with the economy in a massive way -- as in ObamaCare -- is equivalent to burning libraries full of books.