Starvation and Centralization

It’s now well-known that the nation of Sri Lanka has been reduced to poverty, hunger, and chaos by top-down policies requiring organic farming and forbidding the use of artificial fertilizers.  Western ‘experts’ who encouraged them onto this path are nowhere to be seen, and some of their historical posts/tweets have been deleted.

I’m reminded of a passage in Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon.  The protagonist, Rubashov, is an Old Bolshevik who has been arrested by the Stalinist regime, and the book represents his musings while awaiting trial and likely execution.

A short time ago, our leading agriculturalist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate or potash is of enormous importance : it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. 1 was in the right, history will absolve him … If he was wrong … 

Note that phrase in a nationally centralized agriculture.  When things are centralized, decisions become overwhelmingly important. There will be strong pressure against allowing dissidents to ‘interfere with’ what has been determined to be the One Best Way.

Of course, it is theoretically possible for a maker of centralized decisions to decide that parallel and differing paths must be pursued.  This even sometimes happens in practice.  In the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, designs were developed for use of two different types of fissionables (Plutonium and U-235) and three or four different methods for the separation of Uranium isotopes were pursued.

But the multiple-paths approach rarely seems to happen in practice.  The kind of people who rise to become key decision-makers in government rarely possess a great depth of nuance, and they are greatly influenced by confirmation bias, motivate reasoning, and political marketing considerations.

And even the most brilliant and thoughtful individuals can be wrong in a big way.  Vannevar Bush, who was FDR’s science advisor during WWII, was an unquestionably brilliant and creative man who, along with his many other contributions,  invented the mechanical analog computer and envisaged the concept of hypertext, long before the Internet and the World Wide Web.  Yet, regarding the prospect of intercontinental ballistic missiles, he wrote in 1945:

The people who have been writing these things that annoy me have been talking about a 3,000-mile, high-angle rocket, shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb, and so directed as to be a precise weapon, which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city. I say, technically I don’t think anybody in the world knows how to do such a thing, and 1 feel confident it will not be done for a very long period of time to come. I wish the American public would leave that out of their thinking.

If Dr Bush had had complete control over American defense and aerospace research, it is likely that the US would have been much later in ICBM deployment than it in fact was.  We cannot know what the consequences of such lateness would have been, but it’s safe to say that they would not have been good.

And how likely is it that any significant number of our current experts in economics, social sciences, and various other sciences–and their political sponsors and makers of relevant decisions in various countries–are anywhere near as perceptive and forward thinking as Dr Bush was?…let alone more nearly infallible?

Want to bet your and your family’s food supply on it?

6 thoughts on “Starvation and Centralization”

  1. Sri Lanka was reduced to poverty by the Rajapaksha Family. The family has been robbing the country since 2005, and is why they are where they are now.

    I think you meant “bet”. I am hunkering down, not buying frivolous things, as my family will need my help and I am in position to help them. So my pensions, nicely indexed to inflation, will mostly be saved, in case I need to pay out cash for both my son and daughter. My son and sister are looking at 50% rises in their mortgages.

  2. We’ve all just come off of two years+ of top down diktat by idiots. Remember Fauci at the ball game, foregoing the sacred mask. All the other examples of rules for thee, not for me from our betters.

    Was just watching a recent factory tour in California. Wide open layout with individuals widely spaced for the most part. Company flack and customer with face naked for all the world to see, workers all masked. They’re pushing hard for mask mandates for the “fall surge”, never mind not a single piece of evidence that the masks stopped even one case. You WILL show proper obeisance to our power with all the outward signs.

  3. The “Climate Change” hoax has led to such disastrous policies as shutting down domestic oil.

    Federalism might help.

    Central planning always fails, but the utopian visionaries implementing the plans cannot admit that they are at fault. A scapegoat must be found. As a leading example, when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture led to mass starvation, the official blame was placed on “saboteurs” and “wreckers.”

    Our current-day analog is the centrally-planned replacement of our very large, inexpensive and highly functional energy system, mostly based on fossil fuels, with the alternatives of intermittent wind and sun-based generation, as favored by incompetent government regulators who don’t understand how these things work or how much they will cost. Prices of energy to the consumer — from electricity to gasoline — are soaring; and reliability of supply is widely threatened.

    I don’t know how this can be delegated to states but that is the only solution I see.

  4. How about fossil fuel amnesty state rulings? If blue states can do it for illegal aliens, why not?

    Show some guts, repukes.

  5. As I recall Asmove phrased it thusly: “If a distinguished but elderly scientist says something is possible, it almost certainly is. If he says it is impossible, he’s probably wrong.”

  6. ErisGuy – the core optimism of the free market & faith in people – we aren’t fiberboard, to be sawed down to identical pieces.

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