“No sane person builds a widget factory in the middle of a battlefield.”

Kevin Williamson at NR:

There is some debate on the right about whether President Obama is a fundamentally well-intentioned incompetent or a more Machiavellian figure so power-hungry that he is willing to kneecap key sectors of the U.S. economy in order to advance his political agenda. My own view is that the distinguishing feature of Obama’s ideology is the utter inability of the president and his partisans to distinguish between the national interest and their own political interests. (That is one problem with electing a messiah rather than a chief administrator.) If you believe that your guy is a uniquely gifted, once-in-a-lifetime transformational figure with a mandate to save the country, and that he is opposed by uniquely wicked servants of Mammon and partisans of unreason, then it follows that your political interests are identical to the national interest, and consequently you have such grey eminences as Bill Clinton, who has managed to secure for himself a career as an elder statesman without ever having been a statesman, insisting that Republicans are “begging for America to fail” — because they oppose large parts of the president’s health-care program, which the president now opposes, too, having set aside measures that are too unworkable or punitive to act on until some more politically opportune time.

Market orders are complex and organic; political orders are relatively crude and artificial. Obamacare, to take the year’s most dramatic example, is an attempt to impose a simpleton order on a much more sophisticated order, like trying to make microchips with cookie cutters. Such attempts generally end badly, succeeding only in bringing chaos out of order. Friedrich Hayek described the process in The Road to Serfdom: The plan never pans out the way it was expected to, and the planners are obliged by political necessity to take ever more arbitrary and authoritarian steps in order to give the appearance of success to an enterprise that cannot in fact achieve its goals. Even in a democratic society — perhaps especially in such a society — the effects are corrosive, undermining the rule of law, liberal institutions, and the mutual trust that enables meaningful social cooperation. Therefore the question of incompetence vs. malice is not entirely a question of A or B.

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