On Ideas...

Ken writes about bad ideas and good ideas at Alien Landscape.

So we started seeing bad ideas from various (non-math-intensive) fields expounded, popularized, and written into law such as socialism, adolescence, public education, Freudian psychology, National Socialism, national pensions, affirmative action, the Comstock Act, Prohibition, employment laws, communes, "New Age" religions, price controls (although that sin goes back to the Jefferson Davis government and even farther to the late Roman Empire, with predictable results each time... some fallacies seem impervious to every attempt at correction over thousands of years), various food and drug acts, prescription requirements, gun control, liquor control, equality rather than liberty as the ultimate good, and on and on in an apparently unending stream. Other fallacies such as state ownership and complete control of various industries from steel to medicine keep popping up, but keep meeting with successful resistance here in the US so far; still, an awful lot of people keep falling for it. We see brand-new bad ideas mixed with very old bad ideas dressed up as "new", "modern" ideas.

There does seem to be hope. These once shiny "new" ideas have gotten old enough (and displayed enough evidence of their fallaciousness to anyone who is willing to pay attention and use his head) that they might be boring to the latest generation of "new thinkers", who might find it easier to make a name for themselves by once again advocating good ideas such as those expounded further in the past, with refinements in the direction of greater individual liberty and less state control over our economic and personal actions than even the Founders were willing to seriously try for.

One reason I am a cautious optimitist is that the ideas are slowly becoming better and better. Advocacy of full blown socialism was once the bad idea. Once socialism showed its true face, Keynesianism became the new bad idea. Today, it has given way to social democracy. Social democracy too will be replaced by a less bad idea. Meanwhile, the good ideas get better and better. The modern day inheritors of the tradition of classical liberalism are spreading the ideas behind what "consent of the governed" truly means.

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