I have lined up my Christmas presents this year for our President, Barack Obama, and for his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.
I will send them both a copy of the last book written by one of greatest economists of the last century, and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, F.A. Hayek. The book is called “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism.”
Although the language and discussion of the book is not all that simple, the basic point is, I think, pretty straightforward. Hayek summed it all up in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize.
He noted the critical importance that we know what we don’t know. Thinking you know what you don’t and can’t know, the illusion that men can plan, organize, and control things far beyond their understanding, is the “fatal conceit” of socialism.
And, Hayek concludes, that knowing what you don’t know, “ought to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellow, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.”
Take a walk through the mall or the supermarket. Look at the almost infinite varieties of products in stores and on shelves designed and engineered to meet the unique tastes and desires of millions of different individuals.
You don’t need a Nobel Prize or a Ph.D to appreciate that no supreme bureaucrat with all the power in the world could ever conceive that vast array of products and decide they should be produced.
This is the product and beauty of freedom. Free people deciding what they want and living how they want. And free people deciding to take risk, go into business, and become entrepreneurs and produce and deliver these many varied products.