Billionaires Want to Change the World
for your own good
Friedrich Hayek's last book was title The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. In it he labels as the "fatal conceit" the idea that "man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes."
Now comes Karen Hunt at American Greatness in "Know your Enemy" like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Jef Besos and others that think with a bit of technology they can change the world.
These elite firmly believe they are so smart, so wise, so all-important that they have the right—indeed the obligation for the good of the planet—to exploit everything and everyone, right down to the last pound of flesh and even our most private thoughts.
Funnily enough, they already did! Inadvertently, with their PC operating systems and their iPhones and their online buying. They changed the world by accident, and then, a billion or so dollars later decide they want to change it by design.
In A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles Thomas Sowell takes another tack. He says that our modern elites have two different visions. Some of them have a "constrained vision" that believes we don't know the half of it. The others have an "unconstrained vision" that believes we can remake the world using our logic and reason and science. Thus the Age of Reason.
In Sowell's narrative the father of the modern unconstrained vision was William Godwin with is 1793 book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. For Godwin it was a crime not to use all our logic and reason to make the world a juster place. We could say that the father of the constrained vision was Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. In this vision there is a lot more respect given to the unseen wisdom of habits and cultures and ways of life that develop unbidden in society.
The interesting thing to me is that today it is the conservative man in the street that talks about logic and reason and the lefty that talks about "lived experience." And yet the lefty is still trying to upend society with his "fundamental change" and the conservative that is still saying: Whoa Neddy.
And yet, the lefty still wants to redesign society. Because justice.
I suppose we should just be grateful for the Law of Unintended Consequences. La Wik has a history starting with John Locke -- who discussed the unintended consequences of interest rate regulation -- through Adam Smith, Engels, and Robert K. Merton. Today it is, of course, the commonsense of every conservative that every new liberal program is wrecked by unanticipated consequences of gubmint mucking around where it don't belong.
We see the weakness of the lefty approach to life right now in the utter disaster of the Biden administration that thought it was going to shut down oil exploration and fossil fuel electric generation and push electric cars and have a war in Ukraine and shovel money at its supporters and fight racism and transphobia and not think for a moment that everything would blow up in its face.
I wonder if the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of the world appreciate that they got their billions because they had an idea that worked, and that other people got a say. Because we wouldn't have Apple and Microsoft bestride the world if the world hadn't decided, one purchase at a time, to buy into their brilliant ideas. Nobody forced people to buy iPhones and Microsoft Windows back in the day.
I like to say that the difference here is the change created by Anybodies, where one in a million has an idea that changes the world, and the change created by Somebodies, where the ruling class and its stooges tells the world to change, or else.
The point is illustrated by the business startup culture. Lots of people come up with ideas that they are convinced will change the world and they try to put them into practice. But very few of them actually end up amazing the world.
There is no reason why the same should not apply to political and cultural ideas. Lots of people have great ideas for changing the world. But how do we decide which of them are any good?