On Making a Difference

We all want to make a difference. That comes effortlessly when one is dissatisfied with the current order of things. As the wise old dipsomaniac Omar Khayyam put it,

“Ah love, could thou and I with fate conspire,
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire;
Would we not shatter it to bits,
And remold it nearer to our hearts’ desire!”


But interfering in a world one does not fully understand is dangerous. “Let me save you from drowning,” said the monkey to the fish and put it up on a tree. Too many monkeys trying to save fish from drowning leads to the sorry scheme we see around us. Monkeys do make a difference; it’s only that they make it worse.

Here’s Thomas Sowell on making a difference, for the record:

Sowell: I think in the U.S. and in most of the world the public understanding of economics is abysmal. But it’s one thing not to understand something. I don’t understand brain surgery. It’s another to want to form policies on things on which you are ignorant. I hear the wonderful phrase “I want to make a difference” when it comes to policy. I would be horrified if I wanted to make a difference in brain surgery. The only difference is more people would die on the operating table.

3 thoughts on “On Making a Difference

  1. anup Saturday May 23, 2009 / 2:01 pm

    This is an automatically generated Message Delivery Status Notification

    Message Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently

    Reason: The message seemed cryptic owing to a apparent lack of context .

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  2. anup Saturday May 23, 2009 / 2:05 pm

    The above Message Delivery Status Notification was only a temporary failure and not a permanent one.

    Message delivered after reading the tag.

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  3. sundaraz Saturday May 23, 2009 / 6:58 pm

    Though he makes sense on some things, I don’t agree with his FDR and Reagan theory, nor is it a well established conclusion, as he seems to suggest. Below is a recent one from Krugman.

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