Sunday, June 18, 2017

I'll Believe Anything (Except What's True)

A blog I follow, Cafe Hayek, had a blog post recently with this quotation of H.L. Mencken:

Men in the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem, and the more idiotic it is the more eagerly they will embrace it. Nothing that is true ever convinces them.
This is something I talk about when I teach macroeconomics: we know what it takes to experience economic growth--fix your education system and wait 20 years. But we're constantly beguiled by the voices telling us, "What you need to do is allow the government to funnel money to a particular segment of the economy," or, "What really works is this latest redistribution scheme." I tell my students, "We all know what it takes to lose weight: consume fewer calories and burn more calories. Some combination of those two things will lead to weight loss. But most of us say, 'That's not going to work for me.' Then someone comes along and says, 'You can eat all you want as long as you only eat orange food after 7 p.m.' and we say, 'Now THAT's the diet for me!'"

But what really struck me about this Mencken quote is that the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem except for what will bring in the New Jerusalem. It's not a secret that early Christians practiced collectivism. It's not that hard to tease out of Revelation that economic inequality is not a feature of Christ's millennial reign. Latter-day revelation is much more explicit about millennial economics (which is to say the economics prevailing in the Millennium, not the argument that young people can't buy houses because they eat too much avocado toast), but even if you don't subscribe to latter-day revelation, you can see from history that any time someone has a goal of building Heaven on Earth, they have something to say about economic equality.

It should be quite apparent that we cannot continue to maintain economic distinction and hope to usher in the New Jerusalem, and the blueprint has been given to us of how to accomplish this (hint: St. Paul tells us that without charity we are nothing), but instead of increasing our own charity voluntarily, we support political systems that promise to force charity on others.

If you support confiscatory tax rates for millionaires and refuse money to the people milling around the Walmart parking lot (Is your Walmart as overrun with beggars as ours is? Is this just an American thing now?), you are exactly the sort of fool Mencken had in mind.

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