31st August 2010
You know, this actually explains something important, and, yes, I am serious. Paul Krugman writes in re: Isaac Asimov:
Asimov, and specifically the Foundation trilogy, was my great inspiration; I became an economist because I wanted to be a psychohistorian, saving civilization through the mathematics of human behavior.
The psychohistorians use mathematical models to predict the course of human civilization, and the founder of the science of psychohistory, Prof. Hari Seldon, takes on a kind of godlike role in guiding human history. Of particular interest are what are known as “Seldon crises,” which, as Wikipedia sums it up, “are part of the field of psychohistory, and refer to a social and political situation that, to be successfully surmounted, would eventually leave only one possible, inevitable, course of action.” One unique solution to a sociopolitical problem, determined with mathematical precision by a very powerful professor with friends in government. Talk about your fatal conceits!
Fatal for more than the principals.
Asimov and Krugman both believe(d) that human behavior can be (and ought to be) beneficially managed by disinterested technicians who use the Amazing Power of Science to solve all problems, right all wrongs, and immanentize the eschaton.
Asimov makes this explicit in his Lucky Starr novels, where the solar system is ruled by the Council of Science (of which protagonist Lucky Starr is a member), but it runs throughout his work: All we need do is let the Smartest Guys in the Room (of whom the Good Doctor Asimov, ahem, was naturally one) run everything, and the rest of us can get along about our business, in the sure and certain knowledge that everything will turn out as well as it can. Marxists and other proponents of centrally planned economies suffer from the same delusion, with results as we have seen them.
The problem with Krugman’s worldview — the basic problem with managerial statism — is that it calls for masterminds, and we do not have any. But Krugman aspires to the role, and the fruits of his aspirations, and those of others, are all around us.