I don’t read the Washington Times a good deal but I liked this op-ed by Richard Rahn on public choice theory and why we never seem to solve any problems. Take poverty, for example:
The lack of “progress” is largely a result of endless redefinitions of what poverty is. The average U.S. “poor” family now has a large flat-screen color TV, air-conditioned living quarters and a dishwasher. Middle-class families did not have such luxuries 50 years ago.
or racial discrimination:
Racial discrimination is a case in point. By any objective measure, there was far more discrimination a half-century ago, but the amount of media time given to the discussion of racism appears to have grown substantially. Great progress has been made in reducing illiteracy, violence, infant mortality, etc. — yet many believe the world is getting worse, which leads to pessimism. The misinformation spread by the media indirectly causes the people and the political class to misallocate taxpayer dollars to “problems” that have been or are being solved when those resources should be more productively spent on real or more pressing problems.
Unlike Mr. Rahn I think that racial discrimination is a real and pressing problem but I agree with him that the success we’ve realized is being discounted while our failures are being exaggerated. It reminds me of an old description of golf: a game in which the player attempts to insert a ball into a hole with implements singularly unsuited to the task.
He cites just two reasons for the phenomenon he’s identified—the vested interests of those in the government given the tasks and moving the goalposts. But there are many others.
One of those other reasons is that success is poorly defined. Another is messianism, i.e. the objective is not solving problems but to look around continually for new problems to solve. Another is that virtue cannot be inculcated by remote control. Hiring a shabbos goy only makes you compliant with the law in a narrow, technical sense. You have not brought it into your heart.
Yet another is that not all problems can be solved—they are “wicked” problems, e.g. Israel and Palestine.