Arnold Kling  

Benevolent Autocrat Theory

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John Goodman on Government Fai... Gibson on Gold...

Christopher Faris writes,


it's easier to tell and believe narratives about heroic individual leaders than about complex self-reinforcing political and economic systems;

Read the whole thing. It summarizes a talk by Bill Easterly. Pointer from...Easterly's co-blogger, Laura Freschi.

It is not just in the field of development that people have faith in benevolent autocrats. John Goodman's piece on Government Failure to which David Henderson alluded tries to challenge the faith that people have in benevolent autocrats running health care policy in the U.S.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
B.B. writes:

We can flip the observation, applying it to the recent financial crisis.

It is easier to tell and believe narratives about dastardly evil plutocrats than about complex self-reinforcing political and economic systems. See, for example, anything by Michael Moore or "Inside Job" which may win Best Documentary at the Oscars.

Could we have a crisis and recession without any more than the usual amount of greed or stupidity? Can we say we found a flaw in the design of the system, and the system evolved politically and financially without any master plan, without any one person being to blame?

B writes:

God is most people's favorite benevolent autocrat.

Shangwen writes:

This metaphor (or, depressingly, it may not be a metaphor at all) extends into many areas. The AMA tells people that it's busy ensuring the high quality of American doctors, and we believe them.

This is part of the passivity underlying most people's responses to health care regulation debates. Should the identity of the payer be a private entity or the government? Should we have a single payer or user payment or privately insured payment? If you look at the debate from a value-for-money perspective, the debate is more like this: we have insanely high rents that destroy value. Should they be socialized or privatized? And how can we preserve those rents regardless of the outcome?

John Goodman writes:

Why do people have irrational views about government? Why are they capable of finding every little fault in the private sector but incapable of similar scrutiny for the public sector?

I think there is such a thing as a collectivist gene. I plan to write about it one of these days.

Yancey Ward writes:

John Goodman,

It is called envy. Statists and rent-seekers are loathe to criticize the state because it is their sole legal means of sharing in the success of the private initiative.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

Is it sophmoric to question the use of "autocrats" (in the plural) since there can be only one autocrat at a time?

Or are we fragmenting our governance into little separate dominions?

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