Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

No easy prescription for occupation

Anyone who has had off-campus work is probably aware of a pretty widespread sentiment – college kids are annoying know-it-alls. Doe-eyed and idealistic, students get a taste of factual knowledge and think they have in their hands the prescription to all of society’s ills. At the very least, they know exactly what the problems are. From the perspective of a hardworking laborer or business owner with untold responsibilities and pressures, these solutions come fast and easy from a student with little to no responsibility. This person, embedded in the community, with privileges and responsibilities, knows all too well the tremendous challenges of the implementation of change where no easy route is obvious.

The reason that idealistic prescriptions can be annoying as ideas, and dangerous in practice, is that they assume a “view from above,” an overarching view of the scene that can take in every aspect, pinpointing and correcting problem areas while maintaining all of the good aspects at the same time. It is much more realistic to conceptualize a society as an ad-hoc network of sorts, whereby the needs, desires and outputs of each person is linked to those around them, radiating outwards with staggering complexity. There is no intelligence that can possibly take all of this information in. Even if there was, the very next instant the entire picture would change, as drives and relationships are continually in flux.

The great failure of communistic governments, both moral and economical, has been to presume just such a “view from above” that could understand and direct society. By attempting to direct the ends of individuals, governments take away the intelligence that each person, as an economic and moral actor, embodies in their daily lives. Rather than a formless chaos, society is a powerful processor of information; intelligence is distributed and mediated throughout the complex network of interpersonal connections. It takes the genius of classic liberalism to understand that the regulated and protected exchange between free actors possesses a computational complexity that a single intelligence can never possess.

It is for this very reason that vague rants against the current political system, or against the rich, are so singularly disturbing. There is a crucial but subtle distinction, often overlooked, that needs to be made between the Rule of Law and the Rule of Ideology. The Rule of Law, as Friedrich Hayek put it, is the idea that “the government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand.” The Rule of Ideology, on the other hand, puts forth an ideological belief, for example, “the rich are leeches on society and should be punished.” The moral and legal are then defined, not by tradition, but by whatever can carry out the assertion. The key word in this statement is “beforehand.” Known by all and consistently enforced, laws become the syntax of the ad-hoc interactions. People can plan for the laws’ inconvenience and are free within the bounds of law; more importantly, the law ensures a fair and even playing field. Ideology declares whole classes of people corrupt by nature regardless of their individual actions, spawning a vague hatred without regard to specifics on the ground.

The ”Occupy Wall Street” protests make this distinction increasingly important in order to move forward constructively as a nation. I was initially skeptical about the protests, especially since they were sparked off by Adbusters, a magazine that specializes in anti-capitalist ambiguity. The articulation of growing numbers of protesters has completely changed my view. Instead of incendiary slogans like “Eat the Rich,” I hear pleas such as “Hold the rich accountable to the same laws as everyone else.” Not only is this sentiment constructive and politically sustainable, it is the exact opposite of that tortured term, “class warfare.”

It is one of the great and recurring tragedies of history that critics of societal ills in capitalist systems reject the mechanism wholesale, losing the greatest tool for implementing the changes that they seek in a lasting way. Just consider for a moment the lasting impact of labor laws in this country. The 40 hour work-week and workplace safety laws are still as strong as ever, protecting workers without removing competition. By using economic incentives, like the bottle deposit, environmentalists and global warming activists can make it in people’s financial interests to avert ecological disaster. The financial incentive harnesses the exponential intelligence of economic actors, spawning countless unforeseen efforts towards sustainability.

It’s not often thought of in this way, but one of the most wonderful aspects of our political order is its stationary inertia, its resistance to sudden and untested change imposed through the government. It is a hard-won truth that only changes through the Rule of Law, trusting intelligences instead of a single intelligence to make sustainable improvement, preserve economic and political liberty for everyone in the eternal search for a better society.

Gavin Beeker is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at gbeeker@student.umass.edu.

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