John Stossel on 'Rinkonomics': Forget Leaders, You Should Be in Charge

The Planners vs. the Individuals

Humans require some predictable and understandable rules, like the rules children learn in kindergarten: Don't hit other people, don't take their stuff and don't break promises. But most of life is governed by spontaneous order. People choose their jobs, hobbies, lovers, recreation and most of the best things in life, not the government.

The order that comes spontaneously works much better than the order that comes when a central authority plans, because the planners can never account for or predict the great myriad individual needs and interests.

The old Soviet Union is an example of what happens when government tries to plan the economy: The planner doesn't plan for enough of the right things, which results in shortages. Many Soviets waited in lines for hours of every day.

When we tried to "govern" the skating rink by shouting orders with a bullhorn, things got worse. Skaters hated it. Some fell down. I suppose a politician would say we failed at "leading" the rink because we're not smart enough, or don't know enough about skating. We asked Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano to take the bullhorn. He didn't do any better.

Skaters at the rink hated our direction. "It kind of ruins the fun of it," one woman said. "I don't wanna do it then if someone's telling you what to do."

The moral: Intuition leads us to think that complex problems require centrally planned solutions, but political decision-making is rarely the answer. Life works best when we govern ourselves.

20/20's Tori Ueltschi contributed to this report.

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