Do You Believe In Magic?

The next time someone like Robert Kuttner accuses libertarians of having "blind faith in markets," remember this:

[T]he more deeply and widely that people believe in magic, the less magical are their lives, while the more fully people untangle themselves from belief in myths and magic, the more magical their lives become.

That is, the many marvels of our world – proximately the consequence of technology, ultimately the consequence of free markets and rational thought – are possible only insofar as we no longer really believe in magic. We don’t pray to, or dance for, rain gods; we use our minds and machines to irrigate fields. Most of us don’t depend upon unseen, other-worldly forces to maintain our health and extend our life spans; we rely upon medical science. If we want to extend our knowledge, we read books or watch educational television programs; we don’t study tea leaves or gopher entrails.

But one serious species of belief in magic continues to haunt us: politics. Many of us – indeed, most of us – believe that high priests who utter or write certain words according to treasured ceremonial prescriptions and done in certain temples (usually made of marble and topped with domes) can perform magic.

They can’t. But they try and try – and too many of us simply have faith that their rituals are effective.

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Personally, I refer to this

Personally, I refer to this type of superstition as "logomancy": the irrational belief that ink marks on paper can alter objective reality.