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Adam Smith’s formula for prosperity, “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice,” is within human competence to deliver. As government expands its scope beyond its competence and as politics creeps into more and more facets of life, our society becomes more contentious and more dysfunctional. People and organizations are forced to lobby government out of self-defense and factions work to subvert government’s coercive power to advance their own ideas and interests through force. Truth becomes the first victim in this war of subversion.
We’ve seen this in the political battle over the coronavirus. In a pandemic, information saves lives, but disinformation has become the rule as the parties seek to spin the crisis for political advantage. The efficacy of masks, social distancing, medical treatments, and vaccines is determined by political affiliation rather than by medical science.
The countries that responded best to the coronavirus pandemic tended to be those in which the government gave the public as much information as possible and then let individuals, companies, and private organizations determine how to act. Our government did the opposite. It churned out politically skewed disinformation and tried to micromanage people’s actions.
People on both the left and the right want to expand this dysfunctional model even further. Both call for government-led industrial and energy policy, both call for more government intervention in failing government schools, and both call for more government intervention overseas. None of these will be improved by actions made on the basis of lies that will be spun as political parties, lobbyists, and factions jockey for position.Published in