Posted by Nicholas at December 16, 2005 01:16 AM
Competition provides not only useful criticism but a continuous source of experiments. It gives people . . . the ideas with which to create still more progress and encourages them, too, to come up with incremental improvements. By picking winners, stasist protectionism eliminates this learning process, which includes learning what does not work.
"Premature choice," warns the physicist Freeman Dyson, "means betting all your money on one horse before you have found out whether she is lame." Protecting established interests from new challengers is one form of premature choice. But technocratic planners also sometimes kill existing alternatives to force their new ideas to "succeed." To protect the space shuttle, NASA not only blocked competition from private space launch companies, it also eliminated its own expendable launchers. Such pre-emptive verdicts often mark public works projects. Planners pick an all-purpose winner, squeeze out alternatives, and eliminate any real chance of experiment and learning.
Virginia Postrel, The Future and its Enemies
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