Monday, June 29, 2009

Equality Of Outcome vs. Equality Of Choice

Dr. Thomas Sowell, who has defined political society (and to a certain extent, society at large) in two buckets: the Constrained vision and the Unconstrained vision, gives a wonderful interview to the Hoover Institute. We believe that the Unconstrained vs. Constrained vision can be summarized simply as equality of outcome vs. equality of choice. We pick the latter.

In a bit more depth, the Constrained view is that man is flawed and that those flaws are generally fixed as part of human nature. As such, we need a government that is constrained in its powers in order to reflect and protect against the fact that flawed people (i.e., humans) will run the system and that history has shown power corrupts and that corrupt people are often drawn to power. In essence, that because there is no political messiah and that even if there were a perfect leader he/she would someday die and those powers will inevitably fall into corrupt hands, we must build a system that sustainably and structurally separates powers.

The Unconstrained view is that man's flaws are generally man-made and solvable. To the extent we have had flawed societies in the past, it is because we have not tried hard enough, had an expansive enough vision, or perhaps simply had the right leaders. That government should be as powerful as it needs to be in order to improve the lot of its people through dictum. That improved leaders can solve many of human nature's problem through the implements of their leadership and thusly that human nature can be changed (that it is not fixed). In essence, there are political messiahs and we must seek to find these benevolent, perfect leaders in order for their vision to improve human nature.

Some of the highlights include:

* Defense: Sowell's statement on why defense spending deserves a priority position within broader governmental spending, "[that] recognizes that you must survive before you do anything else." This is a classic Constrained vision of the world, which is that history shows that nations will war, thusly disarmament is not a sound approach because it imperils survival.

* Intellectualism: Why do modern intellectuals adhere so strongly to the Unconstrained vision? Dr. Sowell postulates that "they imagine that good people like themselves can make this thing go, that if it hasn't worked in the past it's only because we haven't had the right people [leading]. In other words, communism would have worked if it hadn't been for Stalin." In essence, that we have had the wrong leaders and that the collective decisions of humanity lead to worse outcomes than the targeted decisions of a select few.

* War and Peace: "You can take this back to the Federalists when they said, 'why do we think the thirteen colonies would make war on each other if they're not united,' and the answer was, "because that's what countries have always done. It's not just war, It's poverty. It's crime. All of those are things that people with the unconstrained vision feel needs explaining." He goes on to say, [paraphrasing] that that is what people with the Unconstrained vision feel needs explaining (the "why" of why do wars, crime and poverty happen), whereas Constrained vision people say these are natural outcroppings of man's nature and that we should focus on creating a structure that is most likely to sustain peace, law and order, and morality rather than trying to "cure" man of his nature.

* Obama: On why Obama represents the most clear view of the Unconstrained vision in the history of American politics. "Even FDR pulled back on some things. But Obama...he really does have the Unconstrained vision; which is an elitist vision. It says, 'I know what is best to be done and I will do it.' When he says, 'I will change the world,' you realize this is a man that has actually accomplished nothing other than advancing his career through rhetoric. It remains me of a sophomore in college who thinks he can run the world." As Charlie Munger so wisely and frequently says at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings, I have nothing to add.

* One bonus quote from Dr. Sowell, which explains why we here at TILB effectively chose None Of The Above this past November, "people ask me why am I going to vote for McCain rather than Obama, I answer that it's because I prefer disaster to catastrophe." Indeed.

Dr. Sowell goes on to apply this to modern politics, the judicial system and more.

Watch, enjoy, learn.

[Hat tip: @mymoneyshrugged