Government actions: Einstein and Heraclitus

When speaking of government actions, Einstein's alleged definition of insanity comes to mind. But no one does exactly the same thing twice, per Heraclitus. In the end, however, government action is doomed for failure.

A quote attributed to Albert Einstein says that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Call me crazy, but every time I hear this I cringe. In general, it's fine, but it can be slick.
 
Is time really passing? – Time in Cosmology
Albert Einstein
 
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is said to have said, "A man can't step into the same river twice, because it's not the same river and he's not the same man." This reminds me of that quote.

Heraclitus would say, in other words, that you can't keep doing the same thing. We might think we're doing the same thing, but when you look more closely, you'll see that we're not. We never are.
 


Einstein and Heraclitus have very different ideas about how government should work. People who support the government tend to agree with Heraclitus, who said that it's not the use of force itself that's wrong, but how it's used. We will move forward with better people and more money. Especially more money.

If we look at particulars, we might get confused. A case can be made that the War on Poverty is the mother of all government programs in the extent of its failure, yet it’s been around since 1964. How failed is it? Economist Walter Williams writes (2014):

Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal, state and local levels of government on programs justified by the "need" to deal with some aspect of poverty. In a column of mine in 1995, I pointed out that at that time, the nation had spent $5.4 trillion on the War on Poverty, and with that princely sum, "you could purchase every U.S. factory, all manufacturing equipment, and every office building. With what's left over, one could buy every airline, trucking company and our commercial maritime fleet.

If you're still in the shopping mood, you could also buy every television, radio and power company, plus every retail and wholesale store in the entire nation". Today's total of $18 trillion spent on poverty means you could purchase everything produced in our country each year and then some.

The Einstein theory of insanity seems to be in the spotlight, but supporters of government programs disagree. For one thing, the idea of being poor changes with the times. Williams points out that the poor of today have things like air conditioning and computers that aren't usually associated with being poor. But the poor are just taking advantage of a market that makes these things more and more affordable for more and more people. They are still poor, though.

Divorce is one thing that makes people poor, and even though the divorce rate has been going down since 1981, it is still much higher now than it was when Johnson started his program in the 1960s. More proof that the river is changing. Einstein's crazy doesn't work here.

Coercion fails, over and over

People who support free markets point out that any attempt by the government to interfere with what people choose is a sure way to fail. From an economist's point of view, it doesn't matter what kinds of government programs or agencies there are, how big or small they are, or how bad the culture is. Force doesn't work to solve problems. By forcing itself into our lives, the government is making the same mistake over and over and expecting different results. In Einstein's sense it is insane.

Even worse, the voters are crazy for letting it happen.

Every year, they vote, and every year, the government gets worse. Why do they keep doing the same thing? Emma Goldman said that if voting made a difference, people would make it illegal. But there's no need for that. Instead of making it illegal and making a fuss about it, they just screen out candidates who might be a threat to the system.

We are still free in many ways, but this isn't about drawing a line and telling the government not to cross it. People who vote no longer talk about freedom. What freedom we have comes from the parasitic class waking up to the fact that they can't kill their own goose.

Thomas Paine noticed this idea more than 200 years ago:

The portion of liberty enjoyed in England, is just enough to enslave a country more productively than by despotism; and that as the real object of all despotism is revenue, a government so formed obtains more than it could do either by direct despotism, or in a full state of freedom, and is therefore, on the ground of interest, opposed to both. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, p. 29

When they have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to vote for someone who really doesn't like using force, they listen to the bought media and kick him like a dog. It looks like voters are crazy.

They went to schools run by the government, to be more specific.

People say that central planning has failed many times, which is why it is no longer used. Central planners are not crazy because of this. Central planning hasn't been thrown out, though. Economists all over the world are very excited about it, especially when it comes to central banking.

Einstein seems to be wrong about this one thing.

Setting up a group of smart people to force their money decisions on millions of market participants is better than letting those people make their own money decisions, no matter how bad the results are.

It's better, but only a few lucky people can have it.

In politics, the difference between Einstein and Heraclitus doesn't matter because what's good for the people is usually bad for the people in power. Communism made a lot of people unhappy, but not the people in charge. Central banking is just another name for counterfeiting. It is a way for a few people to get more money and power while the rest of the people lose money. But most people don't know about the trick, so it stays. Economists also like it, so it stays a respected institution.

Federal Reserve inflation is crazy only from the losers' point of view, if they knew they were being cheated. They don't, though.

They don't even try.

Follow us on Google News

Recent Search