Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good on Paper

There's an old canard mocking the rift between theory and practice: "it looked good on paper". You hear this one with failed civil, nuclear, or mechanical engineering projects from time to time, but most often, you hear it with failed social engineering projects, like building pointless dams in Haiti or Egypt, or slapping price controls on, or creating silly make-work projects to restore employment. Of all the failed social engineering projects I hear "it looked good on paper" about the most frequently, the one that sticks in my craw is that of Socialism.

I can't find anything even remotely appealing about Socialism, using any metric, including equality. It's inefficient, illiberal, unjust, and tyrannical, and that's on its face. In practice, I agree, it's far worse than on paper, but by no stretch of the imagination does it at all look good on paper. I do so wish people would stop saying that it does.

Turns of phrase are the shambling undead. To kill them, you need a clean headshot.

1 comment:

  1. I liked Bryan Caplan's thoughts on the fall of the Wall a couple days ago on Econlog. It seems like even before the empirical evidence of the awesomeness of the USSR, China, et al, people understood that it looked bad on paper.