Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rats and opossums in Brooklyn, and central planning

I love the over-the-top writing style of this news article:

In a bizarre attempt to outwit Mother Nature, city officials introduced beady-eyed opossums in Brooklyn years ago to scarf down rats running amok in the borough, according to local officials. . . .

Not only do wily rats continue to thrive, but the opossums have become their own epidemic, with bands of the conniving creatures sauntering through yards, plundering garbage cans and noshing on fruit trees.

They've even taken up golf . . .
Sometimes the government just hands out ammunition to libertarians.

I mentioned before that I've been reading Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies. In the book's introduction, he lays out a few of the overarching fallacies that explain why many government policies go wrong; he calls one of them "the chess-pieces fallacy." He got this name from Adam Smith's description of a theorist who "'seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.'" Sowell elaborates:
Unlike chess pieces, human beings have their own individual preferences, values, plans and wills, all of which can conflict with and even thwart the goals of social experiments. Moreover, whatever the merits of particular social experiments, experimentation as such can have huge economic and social costs. (8)
Apparently, this fallacy doesn't just apply to human beings.

(Photo of opossum by David Hoffman.)


Jason (the commenter) said...

Rats and 'possum; sounds like the makings of a classic American dish.