In the course of reading and writing on a narrow spectrum of political history there are several recurring themes worth consolidating:
- Rationality is limited. It does not exist outside of human nature but evolves as part of it. When it is dissected from other principles such as morality and freedom it can get quite ugly. When a false sense of rationality is subject to majority approval or consensus it will stifle progress, which is often dependent on the discoveries and actions of very small minorities. Rationalism should not be confused with rationalization.
- Very intelligent people are not independent of cognitive biases and emotional rationalizations. Intelligence should not be confused with credentialism.
- When we contend that markets fail, what we are often admitting is that we are not willing to pay the price for what we want.
- Politicians tend to promise benefits without paying for them, hiding the true cost in a maze of mandates, cross subsidies, proxies, and regulations.
- It is much easier to centralize power than it is to centralize knowledge. Capitalism works best when knowledge and power meet. This rarely occurs in regulatory agencies.
- Reform is seductive. The institutions supporting our success are easily taken for granted. Current failures are real, future failures of reform are only theoretical, and often invisible. Theoretical solutions to concrete problems is often based more on hope than reason.
- “The first rule of economics is scarcity; the first rule of politics is to ignore the first rule of economics.” Thomas Sowell (paraphrased)
- Much harm is done trying to perfect the good. We need a political Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.