Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pride Goeth Before an Economic Fall

It all begins with a seductive lie about man's ability to become godlike via a certain kind of knowledge.

And again, it is a permanent temptation, not just something that occurred at the dawn of history; or, it occurs at the dawn of both collective and individual psychospiritual development, and is always there waiting to be exploited.

Karl Marx was reenacting the drama when he claimed to have discovered the secret engine of history, just as Bernie Sanders does today in his crude reduction of the infinite complexity of the market to a simple and universal emotion such as greed.

In fact, doesn't our Unknown Friend touch on this? Marx, "being impressed by the partial truth... that it is first necessary to eat in order to be able to think, raised the economic interest to THE principle of man and the history of civilization." Which is why Marx's cheap omniscience destroys its supposed object, man.

The serpent "appeared to Karl Marx and showed him 'in an instant all the kingdoms of the world,' where all the slaves of the past are transformed into sovereign masters who no longer obey God, having dethroned him, or Nature, having subjected her" (ibid.).

Since the Marxist is neither of God nor of Nature, he is truly a monster. Note too the stolen omnipotence: they produce and eat a kind of bread "which they owe solely to their own knowledge and effort in transforming stones into bread."

Just as a practical matter, we have all heard the gag about the impossibility of one person producing so much as a single pencil. Here are three passages from the essay, which converge on everything we've been saying about Fatal Sin and the Original Conceit:

"There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me [the pencil] into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the invisible hand at work."

"Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree."

"The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed."

Or, we can have Obamacare, government mandated mortgages to unqualified borrowers, and college subsidies. Is it any wonder that these three are the main goods (medical care, housing, and higher education) that are beyond the economic capacity of the typical American? As usual, Government creates the disease it then proposes to cure.

It is as if Satan tells the government: Command these stones to become loaves of bread, and the government responds white or whole wheat? Since the left also attacks religion from every angle, it means that the higher is collapsed into the lower, and that we become increasingly dependent upon the godlike state for our daily bread.

Satan embodies the principles of seduction, hypnosis, and intoxication. Or maybe you've never seen a liberal university campus or a Sanders rally (but I repeat myself).

In this passage from The Counter-Revolution of Science, Hayek speaks of this drunken hubris: "two fundamentally different and irreconcilable attitudes manifest themselves: on the one hand the essential humility of [liberal] individualism... and on the other hand, the hubris of [leftist] collectivism, which aims at conscious direction of all forces of society."

The latter operates under the assumption that it can comprehend systemic knowledge that no human being possesses or could possibly possess. Thus, "consistently pursued it must lead to a system in which all members of a society become merely instruments of the single directing mind and in which all the spontaneous social forces to which the growth of mind is due are destroyed."

And to bring the discussion full circle, it is urgently necessary for man to rationally comprehend the limits of his own reason. And guess what? "Historically this has been achieved by the influence of various religious creeds..." (Although a little familiarity with Gödel also goes a long way.)

There is no excuse for the pride that comes before our economic fall, because "Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is insignificant" (ibid.).


julie said...

...we become increasingly dependent upon the godlike state for our daily bread.

Which, being made of stone, is in truth no bread at all...

julie said...

Or maybe you've never seen a liberal university campus or a Sanders rally (but I repeat myself).

Along those lines, Zombie has a new post up about the Trump protesters in California a couple of weeks ago.

It's the culture said...

I’m not sure if it’s always hubris. I think Marx got wrapped around his own axle. By the time people were exposing the flaws in his theories his career, reputation, livelihood... were completely wrapped around them. It’s hard to say “my bad” under those circumstances. You pretty much have to either start over, or break out the mental defenses to try and keep what you got.

Happens on the ‘conservative’ side too. My outspokenly evangelical Republican in-law doles out lucrative jobs to his (average) kids in a company he does not own, simply because he has the power to do so. I’d love to remind him that this behavior is no different from ranking politburo members giving out dachas to family regardless of “ability” or “need”. But I don’t for the obvious reason that I’d become his family’s enemy.

Marx was correct to know that tribal integrity is usually most when the entire tribes survival is at stake. But he seemed to forget that it’s human nature for people to want to cheat even if it screws the tribe - as long as they can get away with it, which is a lot easier in modern times than in some bear clan cave.

mushroom said...

Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.

Sounds like the biblical definition of faith as the evidence of things not seen.

You may remember a while back that Krugman wrote about his love for Asimov's Foundation trilogy. People like Krugman want to be Hari Sheldon and save humanity from itself. They have faith in their statistical models but no faith in the market, which -- as we've said before, is rather like a very powerful quantum computer. It would be funny if weren't leading so many to destruction.

The faithless say we have to do something without understanding that leaving it alone is doing something.

Roy Lofquist said...

"The individual is foolish, but the species is wise." - Edmund Burke

Joan of Argghh! said...

It all begins with a seductive lie about man's ability to become godlike via a certain kind of knowledge.

I thought for sure this was going to be about NRO...

julie said...


Hale Adams said...

I'm reminded of that famous quote from Ludwig von Mises (a contemporary and friend of Hayek):

The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause [for which] to fight!

(Edited for clarity -- the words "for which" added in brackets)

Damn, but von Mises had a way with words.

Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's Democratic Republic of Maryland

Van Harvey said...

Another quote that comes to mind, the one that first brought it to my mind to call them Pro-Regresives; it's one of the best descriptions for what they are and are For, and one of the earliest, from Calvin Coolidge's speech "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence", where he said,

"...About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers...."

Good words, for a bunch who are, heart and soul, Pro-Regressive.

Gagdad Bob said...

No post today. Manflu.

Van Harvey said...

Maybe if you tried identifying as a woman... er... nevermind.

Anna said...

Hello to the 'coons... This is Anna (aka Elephant, reader from long ago...) dropping in with a book recommendation. My husband and I are only at the beginning, so it could go wrong, but so far, it is quite refreshing. It is: Is There a Meaning in This Text? by Kevin Vanhoozer.

Good to see all the members of the One Cosmos neighborhood here! I haven't been reading the blog much for a while but shall probably be cycling back in for at least a while.

...The profile photo is from last summer, two months before our second daughter was born, and about three months before moving back to the US from a few years in Israel.

julie said...

Anna! It is great to see your name here again :)

Long-belated congratulations on your growing family!