The unicorn has all the powers you can imagine for it. Liberals looks at government that way. It can do anything they want it to do. This is, of course, insane. Government wrecks everything it touches because being a monopoly wherever it acts, it suffers no penalty for its failure. Without that necessary feedback loop government cannot learn from its mistakes. The elected politicians can lose the next election; the bureaucrats can lose their jobs. But that is little different than when the police take a drug dealer off the streets and the next in line jumps in to take that slot. The next set of politicians and bureaucrats continue on with the same carnival show, or a slightly changed one that is just as intractably incompetent.
Right now the City of Detroit has nearly a new set of politicians and bureaucrats. The former ones are either retired, fired or in jail. Detroit is still a mess and the bureaucrats are blaming it on global warming. As the French say, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
I’d like to say that the government being a unicorn for liberals is my original thought, but the idea actually comes from Duke economics professor Michael Munger:
When I am discussing the state with my colleagues at Duke, it’s not long before I realize that, for them, almost without exception, the State is a unicorn. I come from the Public Choice tradition, which tends to emphasize consequentialist arguments more than natural rights, and so the distinction is particularly important for me. My friends generally dislike politicians, find democracy messy and distasteful, and object to the brutality and coercive excesses of foreign wars, the war on drugs, and the spying of the NSA.
But their solution is, without exception, to expand the power of “the State.” That seems literally insane to me—a non sequitur of such monstrous proportions that I had trouble taking it seriously.
Public Choice economics that Professor Munger refers to is the realization that politicians and bureaucrats make decisions based on what they perceive to be their own personal interests, not the public interest. That’s what we all do, and getting a government job or winning an election does not change our basic natural tendency to look out for number one. What is always needed is not to elect or hire the right sort of politician or bureaucrat that will always act selflessly, but to have the right kind of a system where human natural propensities can do the least harm. That was the goal of America’s founding fathers who understood public choice politics long before James Buchanan gave it that name and won the Nobel Prize for his work.
The so-called Millennial generation, those born between about 1984-1996, exhibit the exact schizophrenic thinking that Prof. Munger noticed among his friends in academia. They tell pollsters they distrust government; and they want the government to solve every problem they can imagine. They want the government to provide everyone with a guaranteed income, they want government to run the health care system, they see this government they do not trust as the solution to every ache and pain in their lives. The government is their unicorn.
There have been many “ages” in art, literature and politics. At the end of the Middle Ages was the Italian Renaissance. The 17th Century in England and the 18th Century in the American colonies are known as an Age of Enlightenment. That was followed in the early 19th Century with the Romantic Age in art and literature. Then came the philosophy of Naturalism and Realism. The period from 1900-1917 is called the Progressive Era in American politics.
The Millennials tempt us to conclude that the time we live in presently will come to be known as the age of mass stupidity and ignorance.