The road to "Rationalia"

Consider the relatively straightforward question: How do we move people around to the places they need to go? Even the most simple-minded among us would realize that there isn’t a single answer to that question: Some trips are best done in a 747, some in a Honda Civic. What is the ideal mix of walking paths, bicycle routes, rickshaws, Hindustan Ambassadors, airliners, private jets, trains, hyperloops, spacecraft, sailboats, Teslas, hot-air balloons, zip lines, etc., for the world’s 7.125 billion people? And what will it be 20 years from now?

Would you really trust a group of politicians to figure that out?

There isn’t a road to Rationalia. There are billions of them, negotiated by individuals and institutions dozens or hundreds of times a day, every time they make a significant choice. Government programs are, by their nature, centralized, unitary, and static attempts to impose a rational order on complexity beyond the understanding of the people who would claim to manage it. Obamacare is an excellent example of that: No one intended for premium prices to skyrocket and for millions of people to lose their policies or for the majority of the American public to be unhappy with the program and its results, but that is what happened. The architects of Obamacare weren’t stupid, but, being ordinary mortals (albeit reasonably bright ones), their intellectual capacity was insufficient to the problem at hand: Small brains, big problems.

It isn’t ideology that imposes a relatively narrow circle on what government planners can do. And, with all due respect to the genius of F. A. Hayek (“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”), it isn’t only economics, either. The limitations on human knowledge are real, and they are consequential. As men like him have done for ages, Tyson dreams of a world of self-evident choices, overseen by men of reason such as himself who occupy a position that we cannot help but notice is godlike. It’s nice to imagine ruling from an Olympus of Reason, with men and nations arrayed before one as on a chessboard.