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.