Welcome to the One Best Way

Here we are. Same people, different blog.

Our new blog’s name pays tribute to Virginia Postrel’s excellent book The Future and Its Enemies. Its first chapter, also called “The One Best Way”, examines a tendency in the social sciences and politics. This is the tendency to to long for a technocratic style of management, not just for a factory, but for all of society. Engineering guru Frederick W. Taylor’s famous phrase inspired a generation and more of social engineers who dreamed of finding the one best way… to be human.

If only, the thinking went, if only we could run all of society on the model of a factory. If only everyone knew their place, and if only we managed it all rationally, scientifically, and down to the last detail. No waste, no inefficiency, no loose ends.

This, though, is a dangerous illusion. Thinkers like Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper have demonstrated its intellectual bankruptcy. Societies like the Soviet Union and Maoist China demonstrated that human life is unbearable — indeed, inhuman — without spontaneity and creative self-expression. We depend on these things, not just because they are fun, but as necessities for our very survival.

The one best way is to creatively, thoughtfully let go. It’s to refuse to be ruled — and refuse to rule. I believe that we are all still learning to be human, and that our society is still in its infancy. Let us learn to be independent together. That’s the one best way.

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5 Responses to Welcome to the One Best Way

  1. Michael Drew says:

    This is such bullshit. Joseph Stalin himself didn’t think this way.

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Some documentation, please. Because you’re the one who mentioned Stalin by name, I’ll ask you to be the one to defend him.

    I will be happy to offer support for my claims as regards other Soviet officials later. I’m a bit pressed for time right now.

  3. James Hanley says:

    Michael Drew,

    Please read our comments policy. You’re welcome to argue your viewpoint here, if you keep it civil.

  4. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Eh, I was inclined to let the “bullshit” remark pass. But if Stalin didn’t think in the way I’m describing, then no one did. The man was obsessed with planning and quotas. And when you achieved a plan or made your quota, he had another one waiting for you right away.

    I’d be curious to see Stalin put in a good word here or there for spontaneous order, but I highly doubt he ever did. And even then, we’d have to weigh it against the sheer fact that this was the guy who started the Five-Year Plans.

  5. Pingback: There but for some humility go neo-liberals | Ordinary Times

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