Goldilocks Government

Finally, over the eons, human communities have contrived all kinds of devices to transmit critical survival skills and compatible behavioral norms. One of these has to do with conservation of wealth. “Waste not, want not,” we are told. “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” we are reminded. Using politics to pay people who destroy valuable vehicles, or to hold crops off the market, or to produce ethanol that may use more energy in production than it adds when burned, teaches a lesson of anti-matter and wealth destruction.

via Cash for Clunkers is a Loser | Foundation for Economic Education.

No, I’m not going to complain about “cash for clunkers” again. But the quoted review raises an interesting point about the transmission of behavioral norms necessary for survival. This transmission is accomplished by culture and tradition, sometimes “hardened” into law. No one publishes a list of behavioral norms, and if they did, how could you know which are important for survival and which got there by accident?

It seems to me that arguing and experimenting, tampering with our traditions, is the way we make progress, but also very dangerous. Conservatives give the benefit of the doubt to tradition – liberals are more willing to change things without a robust understanding of what the consequences will be.

Anybody can give lots of examples of where the conservatives proved correct and lots of examples where the liberals proved correct. Most proposed changes are in the undetermined category -might be a good idea, might be a disaster.

That’s why I like our system of government. Change is gradual and there’s opportunity to reverse course. For liberals, it’s too slow. For conservatives, it’s too fast. Maybe for the rest of us, like Goldilocks, it’s just about right.


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