It Is Forbidden for You to Interfere in Human History


Don Boudreaux reads a libertarian message into a deleted scene from Superman now available on the DVD. According to Marlon "Jor-El" Brando:

The reasons [to keep your Clark Kent identity] are two. First, even you cannot serve humanity twenty-four hours a day. Your help would be called for endlessly, even for those tasks which human beings could solve for themselves. It is their habit to abuse their resources in such a way.

This point—or rather a parallel one—will be familiar to readers of Mill's On Liberty, where he notes that someone who allows himself to be guided unreflectively by custom (or statute), even when it yields the right answer,

gains no practice either in discerning or in desiring what is best. The mental and moral, like the muscular powers, are improved only by being used. The faculties are called into no exercise by doing a thing merely because others do it, no more than by believing a thing only because others believe it.

Even when government can effectively solve our problems for us, its worth bearing in mind the risk of individual and communal moral atrophy. Sometimes it's worth doing a thing yourself even when another—whether the government or some private expert—can do it better. I should note, though, that arguably that also that cuts against the desirability of specialization and division of labor that might, in a strict economic sense, be (or anyway seem, in the short-term) efficient.