Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Ruling Class

William F. Buckley once had a funny line to the effect that he would rather be governed by people selected randomly from the phone book, than by the faculty of Harvard.

I totally agree with his stance, but not merely because Harvard profs would be terrible rulers. I don't think it would be wise to put any such homogeneous group in charge of the government. E.g. I can think of pitfalls if physicists, psychologists, professional athletes, etc. etc. were placed in charge. One of the benefits of the random selection approach is that there would be a diversity of views and areas of expertise. For those of us who don't like the government in general, there's also the added benefit of increased gridlock.

If I had to choose, my first reaction was that having a group of economists run the government wouldn't be so bad. After all, I thought, at least we'd get (relatively) free trade and market incentives in various things. The worst, most inefficient government policies would surely be curtailed. But then I realized that "expert" economists have been advising governments throughout the 20th century, and I don't just think it was a matter of the politicians perverting their recommendations. No, there is something seriously wrong with most economists, and it could be terrible if they had unbridled power to implement their schemes.

Ironically, the single worst group of professionals (classified by occupation) to be in charge aren't the economists or the art teachers but...the politicians. Too bad we live in a system--and love it so much that we actually invade other countries to share it with them--where the politicians are precisely the ones given power over the rest of us.

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