Last night, Julie Borowski shared a meme on Facebook of a quote by “Hayek” that featured a picture of the actress Salma Hayek. The joke, of course, is that the quote is from Austrian economist F.A. Hayek in his book “The Fatal Conceit,” not the actress.
The quote by Hayek, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design,” is brilliant and one of my favorites. It is a direct condemnation of central planning and points out the ignorance and arrogance of those who believe that they can suitably manage something as complex as an economy. It should be the slogan of anyone who supports a laissez-faire approach by government to the economy.
So how did people react to it?
A lot of people got the joke but there were also plenty who completely missed it. Some even accused (Salma) Hayek of promoting misandry for using the word “men.”
But the most telling part about the comments was how a number of people rejected the message of the quote, calling it stupid, or saying something to the effect of “that doesn’t even make sense.” Now Julie Borowski has a huge following and there are plenty of followers who are not libertarian or sympathetic to Austrian economic views. Even so, the large majority of her followers are presumably people who would describe themselves as libertarian, so I don’t think that it just so happened that all of the pro-government interventionists commented negatively about this quote. There were enough people that Borowski felt it necessary to explain the meme in a later post.
This is the case of “I dislike whoever said this, so I dislike everything about it.” Here we have a (probably) politically progressive celebrity apparently making a fairly critical statement on a topic people think they know a lot about. Playing the game of identity politics, people will default to liking what people they like say and reject what people they don’t like say. This is exactly how the myth of “trickle down economics” became popularized.
It demonstrates a sad state of affairs for some people. There is a natural tendency for hero worship (and its opposite) to happen anywhere there are leaders in a particular movement. It is bad. It is destructive. It turns people into sheep and destroys their ability to think for themselves. If Ron Paul came out and said, “We ought to have the government start to regulate Uber,” there would be libertarians who would defend it simply because one of their libertarian heroes said it. If Barack Obama delivered a speech and gave the definition of the law of demand, there would be libertarians who would say that the law of demand is incorrect.
The liberty movement is a work in progress that takes time and patience. I write this post not as a condemnation of these people who missed the joke of this meme but instead as a reminder that none of us are perfect and that we are subject to errors stemming from our own biases and emotions. Remember, while you’re laughing at the silliness of someone else, there’s probably someone laughing at your own silliness.