Quote of the day:
A “rational optimist” like me thinks the world will go on getting better for most people at a record rate, not because I have a temperamental or ideological bent to good cheer but because of the data. Poverty, hunger, population growth rates, inequality, and mortality from violence, disease and weather — all continue to plummet on a global scale.
But a global optimist can still be a regional pessimist. When asked what I am pessimistic about, I usually reply: bureaucracy and superstition. Using those two tools, we Europeans seem intent on making our future as bad as we can. Like mandarins at the court of the Ming emperors or viziers at the court of Abbasid caliphs, our masters seem determined to turn relative into absolute decline. It is entirely possible that ten years from now the world as a whole will be 50 per cent richer, but Europeans will be 50 per cent poorer. . . Matt Ridley.
He goes on to talk about the costs of bureaucracy:
As the Ming empire found out, the more government you buy, the less economic activity you get. A Fujian travelling salesman in 1400 was enmeshed in such a tangled bureaucracy that he could neither travel nor sell without bribes and permits, and he had to submit a monthly inventory of his stocks to the emperor.
Sound familiar? Every small businessman I talk to these days has a horror story to tell about the delays and costs that have been visited upon him by planners, inspectors, officials and consultees. Using the excuse of “cuts”, the bureaucracy is taking even longer to make decisions than five years ago. In the time it has taken Britain’s Government to decide whether to allow a fifth exploratory shale gas well to be drilled in Lancashire, and from the same standing start, the same investors have drilled 72 producing wells in Argentina. That the country of Watt and Stephenson should look a potential cheap-energy gift horse in the mouth in this way is staggering to this jaded optimist.
From ancient Egypt to modern North Korea, always and everywhere, economic planning and control have caused stagnation; . . .
There is a need for some rules but the more involved governments are in business the more difficult, and costly, it is for businesses to start, to operate and to grow.
. . . A growth-preventing bureaucracy is not the only thing suppressing enterprise in Europe. Superstition is also playing a part, as it has done in past episodes of economic decline. The great flowering of Arab prosperity and culture under the Abbasids was brought to an end with the burning of books, the shutting down of inquiry and a mistrust of novelty.
Again there are echoes. Many of the ideas that led to the genetic modification of plants — which has boosted yields, cut insecticide use, saved fuel and soil, and helped the poorest farmers — were pioneered in this country. Yet today there is almost none of this work done in Britain and none of its boons are permitted to farmers and their customers. The labs are ghostly quiet. Why? Entirely because of neophobic superstition that has animated reactionary elites into opposing change on the basis of myths peddled by green mystics. . .
Those myths promoted by green mystics are getting in the way of science and productivity improvements here too.
Hat tip: Tim Worstall