The Tech World’s Weirdly Myopic View of Government

Whenever the government gets involved in something they understand, techies turn quite libertarian. “We need to stop the FBI from creating dangerous precedent by forcing Apple to unlock an iPhone.” Or, “Regulators will just screw up Uber and Airbnb, because they don’t understand what they’re doing and, anyway, they’re just going to regulate in favor of the dinosaur firms.”

But the moment we talk about something outside the domain knowledge of techies, they settle back into progressive shibboleths. “Government ought to run the health care industry.” Or, “Of course the state should be able to take away everyone’s guns. What could go wrong?”

A good rule of thumb: If you notice that the government works remarkably poorly whenever it gets involved with an issue you know a ton about, you should probably assume it’ll work just as poorly — with just as many errors and bad incentives — when it gets involved in an issue you’re largely ignorant of.

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