It's Thanksgiving weekend. And while we give thanks for the great success and wealth that freedom and republican government have brought to this country, perhaps it is also time to consider the hubris that has come along as well. It has now become fashionable to believe that a few, or perhaps just one, specially intelligent person, with a degree from the right elite institution, and with access to the infinite spending power and infinite police power of the U.S. federal government, can cure all the personal problems of the people of the U.S., and indeed of all humanity. If you don't believe this can actually work, well then, you are just immoral; you must want to see the poor and the afflicted suffer and die.
For a good example of this mindset, check out Colbert King in yesterday's Washington Post, characterizing the ongoing battle over Obamacare as a simple morality play:
Drawn into sharp relief is the struggle taking place in this country between doing what is right and good and an unashamed indulgence in the immorality of indifference. The issue couldn’t be put more simply. Forty-nine million Americans do not have health insurance. For many of them, the ability to deal with their illnesses and injuries depends on their ability to pay.
It's just good versus evil! And since we have infinite resources, why stop at health insurance -- while they're at it, shouldn't our masters just fix everything with the infinite checkbook? After all, leaving any human problem unaddressed by the all-knowing government is "unashamed indulgence in the immorality of indifference." Right?
So the Manhattan Contrarian thinks that it's time for nominations for the person or institution that best exemplifies hubris in today's world. I have three nominations for starters. Additional nominations from readers are welcome.
First up, of course, is President Obama. Margaret Carlson, writing at Bloomberg on November 26, puts together in one place two of the most illustrative items about our leader. The first is his prediction, made in 2008 at the end of the primary season, that future generations would look back on his nomination as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Now there's some hubris! And then there are the remarks made about Obama by his close aide Valerie Jarrett to biographer David Remnick:
“He knows exactly how smart he is,” she told Obama biographer David Remnick. “And he knows that he has the ability -- the extraordinary, uncanny ability -- to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them.” Obama “has never really been challenged intellectually,” she went on. “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”
Don't you have to wonder what kind of president thinks it's OK to surround himself with abject worshipers like Valerie Jarrett? If you had that job, wouldn't you want some advisers with at least a bit of skepticism? Anyway, after many years of adulation from Valerie and her cohorts, I have no doubt that Obama actually believes that with the powers of the federal government he can control the oceans.
OK that nomination is very, very hard to top. But I have two more. Nomination number two is the Federal Reserve. The governors of that institution have come to think that they have some kind of direct control over the unemployment rate, and that they can fix high unemployment through "monetary stimulus" without any risk of inflation. Here's their recent guidance from their very own website:
Following their December 2012 meeting, Federal Reserve policymakers indicated that they anticipated that a target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent will be appropriate at least as long as
- the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent,
- inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than 1/2 percentage point above the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and
- longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.
So after a few years of this and building up several trillion dollars of excess reserves in the banking system, and unemployment barely budging (even worse if measured by labor force participation), has it occurred to them that monetary policy does not directly affect unemployment? And if there is an indirect effect, do they even know the sign of it? And these trillions of dollars of excess reserves in the banking system -- is there any danger there? As far as I can tell, not one of them seems to be aware that this could ever be a problem.
And for the third nomination we have the UN IPCC and the warmist scientists who stand behind them. These are the people who believe that bad weather is caused by your sinful use of electricity and driving an SUV, and that they can control the weather by keeping the world's poor in poverty forever, and by tripling your price of energy. Here's the way they put it in their recent press release that went along with their massive "Fifth Assessment Report" on the state of the climate:
It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.
In case you were just starting to feel comfortable on this cold late November day, that "human influence" they are talking about means you heating your house. But don't worry, once they take that away from you they are just really, really positive that the world temperature is going to go back down by maybe a tenth of a degree or so, if you believe that such a thing can be measured with sufficient accuracy to tell that it has happened.
Today's Wall Street Journal, in the Notable & Quotable feature, has an excerpt from the Nobel Prize acceptance speech of Friedrich Hayek. Here's a paragraph:
There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success,” to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.
There's no chance that anyone in Washington or in the UN has any understanding of these ideas. So there should be lots of nominations for the hubris award!