from Kevin Williamson at National Review, People Aren’t Widgets

Though they disagree, politicians in Beijing and Washington both think they know what the renminbi should be worth. Until Thursday, Chinese authorities thought they knew how much shares on the Chinese stock market should fluctuate on any given day, too. Their counterparts in Washington believe that they know in which direction housing prices and gasoline should be headed on any given Friday morning in January — and what interest rates on credit cards should be, how much an hour of unskilled labor is worth in Muleshoe, Texas, how many people should be majoring in engineering vs. history — and how the renminbi should be valued, too, if you ask them, it being a bipartisan article of faith in Washington that most of what’s wrong with the U.S. economy is caused by scheming, inscrutable Orientals in exotic locales, rather than (unthinkable!) the work of power-hungry numbskulls in Washington. The fact is that these politicians and their philosophy of ad-hocracy are only agents of chaos, blind idiot gods flailing in the economic darkness.

It isn’t insignificant that Washington’s smart set has only recently (and only partly) been cured of its debilitating China envy. But they’ll never learn the real lesson of China, or the U.S. housing bubble, or whatever the next great economic crisis is: There are things you can’t actually do with political power, and one of the things you can’t do is intelligently manage markets that are so complex as to be literally incomprehensible, even in theory.

But every expensively miseducated jackass who thinks he should be president of these United States has an opinion about what a bottle of grape soda ought to cost in Des Moines or Dixville Notch. The assumptions in Washington are the same as those in Beijing: that everything is subject to political power, that it all comes down to having the right sort of enlightened rulers with the right sort of enlightened ideas, that everything else — the real world — is detail. But human beings, and their relationships, are not electrical circuits. They are not governed by circuit breakers. Not in reality.

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