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Welcome to the Machine
Remember, my dear new regulator, that you are useless


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You’re getting where I’m going here, right? It’s not that there shouldn’t be any regulation. It’s just that we have to keep our expectations excruciatingly modest, because you, Mr. Smith, are not going to be very good at it. But you’re what we’ve got. You don’t know what to do, the elected guys sure as hell don’t know what to do, the whole econo-politico-epistemological deck is stacked against you, and Lloyd is dealing. It’s Lloyd’s deck. Common sense is not going to get you through this, and you do not have adequate information to make decisions in the public interest. Nobody does. But here’s the thing: Betamax and the Arch Deluxe and Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt Shampoo (seriously, that existed) just get yanked off the shelves when hordes of people don’t buy them, and the great big milling laboratory of the marketplace tells Joe Businessman, who is really a research scientist seeking social value, to shelve that particular hypothesis and maybe not expect a bonus this year. But there’s no feedback mechanism like that in government, which means that when you do stupid, you do immortally stupid. You might find yourself asking why Alabama has a law against having an ice-cream cone in your back pocket at any time or chaining your alligator to a fire hydrant. (What was the precipitating episode there, Bubba?) You get Americans in the 21st century still paying the temporary emergency telephone tax to fund the Spanish–American War (1897–98). On and on it goes. Forever. Deathless stupidity tends to accrete and clog up the system, over time, and Washington is a factory whose workers produce deathless stupidity like it’s their job, like they’re getting paid for it. Because it is. Because they are.

Welcome to the machine.


Contents
December 31, 2010    |     Volume LXII, No. 24

Articles
Features
Books, Arts & Manners
Sections
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .