Posts Tagged social engineering

You Can’t Plan a Market: Transforming Culture from the Bottom-Up

The White Man's Burden by William EasterlyWhy has post-Soviet Russia not panned out to be the bustling, prosperous economy that the freedom folks predicted it would be? Is this the fault of the free market, or is there something deeper at work?

This week at AEI’s Values and Capitalism, I examine the question, channeling economist William Easterly to make the case that “you can’t plan a market.”

Although many Western tinkerers wrongly ignore the structural limitations in improving developing economies, many on the opposite side make the mistake of pretending that the structural stuff is a cinch.

I argue that it isn’t:

In our modern, polished system (with the wear-and-tear steadily increasing), we are tempted to look at other countries and think their problems are simple enough to be fixed by scribbling a couple solutions on paper and circulating it through the right hands. Even for free-market types, there is a rash assumption that all it takes is a magical structural concoction and a semi-functional government to get a poor country in motion.

Forget the individual habits and beliefs of the people on the ground. Forget the spiritual and cultural factors that limit or propel that society forward. Forget the psychological damage caused by previous (or current) totalitarian rule. “Just give them a market,” we say, “and let them be.”

As I say in the piece, “spontaneous order is not spontaneous order unless it is spontaneous.” Even in America, lest we forget, our thriving economic system did not come from the wave of a magical capitalism wand. Look no further than the 19th century to behold the painful and chaotic emergence of what we know today (and appreciate it).

To demonstrate this lesson, Easterly’s book points to several key market components that are difficult to “invent,” particularly from the top down: trust, property rights, social relationships/unity, peace, etc.

Such features — what Nick Schulz and Arnold Kling call “intangible assets” — must originate from Read the rest of this entry »

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The Circle of Protection: A Round-Up of Christian Responses

Jim Wallis, What Would Jesus Cut, Circle of Protection, SojournersLast week I weighed in on all of the “Circle of Protection” mumbo-jumbo being tossed around at the White House, arguing that Jim Wallis and his progressive brethren are once again warping the “least of these” into political tools and confusing bureaucratic blubber with genuine compassion.

Although the budget talks are finally coming to a close — for better or for worse — there have been a flurry of other Christian responses to Wallis & Friends that are well worth reviewing. Given the evident persistency of the social (gospel) engineers and the relatively mild implications of last night’s news, such a discussion will certainly not fall off our radars any time soon.

Thus, here’s a quick look at what others have been saying about the Christian’s role in approaching an unsustainable economic future.

  • Friend of the blog Eric Teetsel has joined several other Christian leaders in writing a letter to the president in hopes of realigning the discussion away from Wallis’ perversions. The question: “Whom would Jesus indebt?” (Add your signature here.)
  • At National Review Online, Rev. Robert Sirico argues that “in the moral calculus of Jim Wallis and his Circle of Protection supporters, there’s no problem with prostrating yourself, your Church, and your aid organization before Caesar.” Also, catch Rev. Sirico’s interview with NRO on the same subject.
  • Although he doesn’t focus on Wallis directly, Douglas Wilson does a marvelous job illuminating precisely why such talks inevitably result in such bizarre and petty squabbles over this program or that. The reason? We lack honesty, integrity, and above all, a sense of reality. “Paper promises, like paper money, require honest men to execute them,” says Wilson. “And that, as it turns out, is where our real shortage is.”
  • At the Institute on Religion & Democracy, Mark Tooley concludes that Wallis did not go to the White House to represent the poor, but to represent “the secular permanent governing class.” “For its denizens,” Tooley says, “Big Government is apparently the only deity that Read the rest of this entry »

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Orphanages in America: Mourning the Loss of Community Impetus

Home Away From Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages by Richard B. McKenzieIn modern-day America, orphanages are a thing of the past. Due to the emergence of foster care, the expansion of welfare, and an overall increase in life expectancy, orphanages are now seen to be largely unnecessary.

But there’s another reason for their demise which typically supersedes the rest: People tend to think that orphanages are bad.

Indeed, from Oliver Twist to Little Orphan Annie, we have long been bombarded by images of the lonely child living in cramped quarters with little to eat and even less to read. The masters are cruel, the children are loathsome, and the food is inedible.

But “not so” — or not necessarily so — says Richard B. McKenzie, editor of a recent collection of essays titled Home Away From Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages. In the collection, McKenzie attempts to inform our common perceptions of orphanages by offering us a glimpse into what the orphanage life was really like.

The conclusion? Sometimes Dickensian, sometimes not. In either case, the McKenzian solution is a bit more cautious than we’re used to.

To build the collection, McKenzie assembled a number of academics to condense their works into more “manageable” chapters. As for McKenzie himself, he promotes a positive view of orphanages, particularly because he himself had a positive experience growing up in one.

“Critics of orphanages stress what the children there did not have.” McKenzie says. “Those of us who were there have a different perspective. We were, and remain, able to draw comparisons between what we had at The Home with what we would have had.”

But although McKenzie has his own opinions on the personal and socio-political benefits of orphanages, he has already edited a volume on that subject. Instead, this book is intended to bring clarity to a forgotten past. He is not trying to Read the rest of this entry »

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