Will the Real Wise Advice Please Stand Up?
By Bryan Caplan
Arnold wonders if I’m asking a trick question:
Politicians usually ignore wise advice. Is that a reason not to try to make them take wise advice?
Coming from a libertarian (or someone who I thought was a libertarian a few weeks ago), is that a trick question? Suppose that it’s 1935, and the “wise advice” that the technocrats give is for a pay-as-you-go Social Security system. (That indeed was the considered advice of economists working for Roosevelt at the time.) Should we be happy that Roosevelt took that advice?
There’s a world of difference between trying to make politicians take wise advice, and trying to make politician take advice that people mistakenly think is wise. I’m not happy that Roosevelt took the advice because Social Security was and remains a foolish policy.
Arnold goes on:
As a libertarian, you don’t want to see politicians trolling for technocrats with clever schemes. You want politicians and the public to be properly skeptical of government. At least, that’s what I want.
What if the “clever scheme” is deregulation or privatization or any other libertarian reform? Again, the sensible complaint for a libertarian to make against allegedly clever statist schemes is that they are actually foolish.
P.S. Arnold can put his fears about my defection from libertarianism to rest. All I’ve been claiming is that elites are more libertarian than the rest of the population, so giving elites more influence pushes policy in a libertarian direction. William F. Buckley famously said that “I would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the 2000 members of the faculty of Harvard University”. As for me, I would rather be governed by the current membership of the American Economic Association than by the millions of people who voted on Tuesday.