Friday, November 07, 2008

The Victims of a Metaphor

Sadly, we're getting a whole lot of precisely the wrong kind of thinking in response to this crisis. Indeed, most of the bad thinking arises from viewing the economy through the lens of false metaphor -- economy as machine. We've heard pundits accuse the government or banks of being "asleep at the switch." But in a complex system there is no switch. We've heard people ask how to "fix it," "run it," or "regulate it," suggesting if just the right sort of genius controlled the rheostats, we'd get just the right sort of economy.
But the economy is not like a machine at all. It is rather more like an ecosystem that no one can run, fix, or regulate. The hubristic sort of person who thinks he or anyone can run an economy is the victim of what Hayek called the "fatal conceit." And if given power, he will end up making the rest of us the victims of his false metaphor.
...the essence of The Matrix.
People want government, like God, to come down and fix the unfixable, or explain the inexplicable. That's why they're finding it easier to blame greed for our current financial crises. But greed is rather more like gravity. When you fall, you can either blame Newton or the banana peel on the ground.
Full essay.