The longer a society remains stable, the more freighted down with special interest groups it
becomes. Unions or cartels of businesses slow an economy’s response to change because they
require the assent of many members in order to effect a change. This makes wages and prices
much stickier than in a classical free-market economy."
—Mancur Olson as paraphrased by Philip Greenspun. original
Groups of people are dumber than their constituent members when they exchange words, like in committees, boards, governments, meetings, etc.
Groups of people are smarter than their constituent members when they exchange actions. Markets are smarter than individuals because currency is a surrogate for action.
How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? I do not know, I do not see, even now. To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. ..it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty. instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, “everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. in your own community, you speak privately to you colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, “It’s not so bad” or “You’re seeing things” or “You’re an alarmist.”
And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.
But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further.. So you wait, and you wait.
And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying “Jew swine,” collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. You have gone almost all the way yourself.
If your society has no variation in productivity, it’s probably not because everyone is Thomas Edison. It’s probably because you have no Thomas Edisons.
The middle class is prone to seeing the working class as rigid, self-interested, narrow, uninformed, parochial, and conflict oriented. The working class tends to perceive the middle class as moralistic, intellectual, more talk than action, lacking commonsense, and naïve about power.
Each side has a different standard for evaluating information. The working class trusts experience, and the middle class believes in research and systematic study. The result is a wide gulf in understandings of nature, sustainability, economics, and human conduct.
They seek change differently. The working class seeks to build power to confront external threats, while the middle class hopes to change people’s motivations, ideas, and morality.
The middle class tends to have greater faith in the ability of bureaucratic institutions to accomplish its goals. The working class, by contrast, is often the weakest party in conflicts and tends to pay the costs of many political and economic decisions. Its strategies reflect both this vulnerability and the interpretation of politics as a conflict about interests.