Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The People Behind Things

In Sweden, a "right-leaning government" -- at least by the completely objective standards of the New York Times -- has refused to bailout the ailing auto-maker Saab.

The Times quotes one Swede who says “I don’t think the government knows the situation in this town, how many people depend on Saab...To them it’s just a factory. They don’t see the people behind it.”

In one sense, this is completely correct. Government rarely knows the situation in every town. Government is supremely ill-equipped to deal with such fine-grain knowledge.

On the other hand, this comment can quickly be turned around. Ignorance doesn't run just one way. A "right-leaning" Swede could correctly state, "I don't think the factory workers understand where this money comes from, how many people in other places have to live with less in order to bailout people making things no one wants to buy. To the workers, it's a bailout. They don't see the people behind it who have to pay for it."

Yet another example of human folly as described by Bastiat's famous essay,  "What is Seen, and What is not Seen."

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