Sunday, June 15, 2003

Socialism is the Opiate of the Masses

This is but one of the reasons I consider myself fortunate to be an citizen of the U.S. I cannot imagine exactly how the EU intends to continue to fund their massive welfare systems – but one thing is certain: the European populace (read: dependents) won’t stand for any curtailing, regardless of the consequences.

I can’t help but think that the knee-jerk appeal to socialism is the product of a profound misunderstanding of the importance and fundamental pre-eminence of individualism. I found what I believe to be an apt illustration of this in the above article. To wit:
The controversy also goes to the heart of the debate on what kind of society "Europe" is building. In an essay published in Frankfurt and Paris last week Jürgen Habermas in Germany and Jacques Derrida in France hailed the birth of a "European public" which should be matched by strengthening the European polity.

European welfarism should be central to that project, they argued, setting Europe apart from the Anglo-Saxon model of pension funds, private provision, and stock markets as the cushions in old age.
It seems to me that the above gives the distinct impression that the author (and indeed the European mainstream) feels that “private provision” is just as much a top-down model foisted upon a people as is a welfare system! I think this is indicative of a general disposition toward mental masturbation in Europe — great expenditures of thought (and money) yielding grand plans and analysis for and of Europe; as if the demise of the Sun Kings was merely a logistical nicety. In contrast, I would argue that the U.S. is taken at its very core, by the notion that it is every individual’s actions and interests that are paramount — and as such, pronouncements from on high are generally treated with a good deal of skepticism, if not hostility, (Gore Vidal, be warned.)

Taking pot-shots at Europe aside, the issue I’m trying to shine some light upon is the Taxis/Kosmos dichotomy. Taxis and Kosmos are appellations given by Friedrich Hayek, Economist and Nobel Laureate, to encapsulate the concepts of made order and grown or spontaneous order, respectively. Made order seems to be the most intuitive kind of order — it is order imposed by fiat. Accordingly, when something in society is distasteful to a segment of the population, the call is made to fix it — and what is meant by this is the imposition of taxis. Because this approach seems so obvious, it is ubiquitous — the particular form of the taxis may change, but it is still taxis that is easily understood and therefore applied over and over.

Kosmos is Hayek’s name for spontaneous order. Spontaneous order is the order of nature. There is no fiat in nature. Take a simple plant as an example: there is no central governor that controls the process by which a plant should grow and manifest. Rather, it will grow toward its light source — if that source should be to the north, it will grow to the north, etc. It is the exigencies of the context in which a grown order appears that dictate the nature of the order and NOT fiat. This is a sophisticated concept. It is not easily understood or assimilated, and because of this, it took many thousands of years before a system of human governance that exemplified Kosmos was developed (embodied in the Constitution of the United States.)

I suppose a pissed-off 50-year-old post office worker can’t be expected to keep such subtleties of knowledge in hand while considering their pension.

posted by Malaclypse the Tertiary at 12:25 AM ·

Smart Blogs:
(in no particular order)
Deinonychus Antirrhopus
The Knowledge Problem
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Kolkata Libertarian
Andrew Sullivan
Little Green Footballs
Dave Barry
Libertarian Samizdata
Balloon Juice
Discount Blogger
Truck and Barter
Peking Duck
The Gweilo Diaries

Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Cato Institute
Junk Science
David Friedman
Tech Central Station

<< current