Ed Driscoll

We are the Psychohistorian Economists We Have Been Waiting For!

I’m late to this, but I wanted to mention a great find by Kevin D. Williamson at the Corner, who takes one for the team, reading Paul Krugman so the rest of us don’t have to:

You know, this actually explains something important, and, yes, I am serious. Paul Krugman writes in re: Isaac Asimov:

Asimov, and specifically the Foundation trilogy, was my great inspiration; I became an economist because I wanted to be a psychohistorian, saving civilization through the mathematics of human behavior.

The psychohistorians use mathematical models to predict the course of human civilization, and the founder of the science of psychohistory, Prof. Hari Seldon, takes on a kind of godlike role in guiding human history. Of particular interest are what are known as “Seldon crises,” which, as Wikipedia sums it up, “are part of the field of psychohistory, and refer to a social and political situation that, to be successfully surmounted, would eventually leave only one possible, inevitable, course of action.” One unique solution to a sociopolitical problem, determined with mathematical precision by a very powerful professor with friends in government. Talk about your fatal conceits!

On Earth, unhappy wretches that we are, we must labor under constraints. In politics, one of the most important of those constraints is the “knowledge problem” articulated by Mises and Hayek: Even the smartest, most motivated, best-intentioned bureaucrats cannot plan complex human undertakings—such as the workings of the economy, or subsectors of the economy—because they do not and cannot have access to data sufficient to make those decisions, the data being too complex and in constant flux. (Question: If governments actually know how to macromanage economies, why are there recessions?)

I love the Obamaesque narcissism contained within Krugman’s admission that “I wanted to be a psychohistorian, saving civilization through the mathematics of human behavior” — it’s his personal equivalent of the hoary cliche of newspaper journalists who, ever since the 1970s said they joined their profession to “change the world.”

(Has anybody ever asked a journalist “What would you like to change it into?”)

This isn’t Krugman’s first public embrace of a Galbraithian command and control economic worldview, of course. Last year Krugman even praised Richard Nixon, as part of the 37th president’s strange new respect among liberal journalists for similar reasons). It also brings to mind the cri de coeurs of Thomas Friedman, Krugman’s fellow Timesman, for totalitarian China.

Well, that at least answers the “how would you like to change the world” question for Friedman!

Of course, totalitarian regimes keep their dissent just offstage, unlike the out-in-the-open messiness of democracy. Which not surprisingly, the New York Times has little patience with, particularly when the voters aren’t in sync with the Gray Lady, as Noel Sheppard writes at Newsbusters:

The New York Times Friday called many of its readers “appalling” for their opposition to the Ground Zero mosque.

As NewsBusters reported moments ago, the Times released a new poll Friday finding that 67 percent of New York City residents are against the proposed location for the Islamic center.

At the same time, the Gray Lady, clearly not concerned about offending its dwindling number of patrons, chose to insult portions of its remaining readership with the following editorial:

It has always been a myth that New York City, in all its dizzying globalness, is a utopia of humanistic harmony. The city has a bloody history of ethnic and class strife. […]

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are two pinnacles of American openness to the outsider. New Yorkers like to think they are a perfect fit with their city.

Tolerance, however, isn’t the same as understanding, so it is appalling to see New Yorkers who could lead us all away from mosque madness, who should know better, playing to people’s worst instincts.

That includes Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio, Republicans running for governor who have disgraced their state with histrionics about the mosque being a terrorist triumph. And Rudolph Giuliani, who cloaks his opposition to the mosque as “sensitivity” to 9/11 families without acknowledging that this conflates all prayerful Muslims with terrorists, a despicable conclusion. […]

New Yorkers, like other Americans, have a way to go.

That’s a heckuva way to treat your patrons as well as prospective customers.

Yeah, there’s a lot of that going around these days, isn’t there? Or as James Taranto puts it, “Times to City: Drop Dead.”

Fortunately, most New Yorkers are made of heartier stock than the effete Gray Lady, as this humorous (and alas — language warning –it’s filled with plenty of New Yowk F**#&#&@-style language ) mock New York Post commercial implies.