Intelligent Design

Success in the long run means doing more of things that work well and less of things that do not. It is evolutionary*, statistical. The more successful adaptations come to replace the less successful ones. No adaptation is universally best in all places and times and the best strategy is to have a diverse mix of options and let the situation decide.

Yesterday the Senate held hearings about what the private sector had done during Katrina. There were amazing success stories. In our free market democracy, we take it for granted that when something doesn't work, somebody will fix it. We expect that when we go to the grocery store, goods will be available in something like the quantity and variety we expect. Where does this stuff come from? Who decides what food or drink will be available for us? Does it work?

The Senate hearings recalled of the failure of government - state, local and federal - during Katrina. Maybe the reason they failed is BECAUSE they are government. And maybe they didn’t fail at all. Maybe, given the particular circumstances (a poor, crowded, below sea level town and a "unique" local administrative culture), that is about what you can expect from government.

So I advocate an evolutionary approach. The private sector worked very well in doing many of the things the government failed to do. In fact government rules sometimes got in the way. I am not advocating zero government, but maybe we should rely more on private initiative to do the things government does less well.

Many people saw the disaster in a differently. They saw the failure of government as a prescription for more government -like the boozer who wakes up with a headache and decides that the best thing to do is to dive deeper into the whiskey river. It makes the headache go away . . . for a while.

Anyway, I take the evolutionary approach. If the next problem is different, we deploy a different mix, but learn more each time what is most reliable and do more of it. Let's not learn the wrong lessons from the feedback. Proponents of more government are really advocates of an intelligent design. They think that an omniscient faraway government can better plan for the exigencies of local needs. They are ignoring their own experience and that of every other human society at least since the time of Gilgamesh. And I suppose they never visited a Soviet style grocery store.

* Yes, I believe the theory of evolution explains most of today's biology. No, I don't have a postion about who started, manages or shapes the process. That is a matter of faith not science. It is not my business and I don't have any inside information.

Posted by Jack at November 17, 2005 1:08 PM