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Affluent Investor | June 23, 2017

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George Gilder Is Optimistic That We’re Due For A Surprising Leader

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Photo: Gage Skidmore

We’re not doomed. At least not according to George Gilder’s challenging and insightful Knowledge and Power.

Plenty of nations have lost their way, and this present distress is not the first time we’ve gotten off course. But according to Gilder, although human beings are wired to receive information, we are currently starved of new ideas because our current ruling class in politics and media is basically just transmitting the same old noise. According to Gilder, when politicians try to match their message to ‘public opinion’ they stultify the political process. The job of leaders is not to reflect back ghostly images of the already spectral enough phantom known as public opinion. The job of leaders is to teach the public something they don’t already know. The third and final installment of our interview with Gilder follows below:

Jerry: “I kind of imagine you speak this signal into the current intellectual milieu and the libertarians say, “Wait, what’s all this stuff about family?” And the sort of nostalgic right say, “Wait, what are all these new jobs from overseas? They’re going to mess up American culture.” I mean, you’re at odds, to some degree, with the sort of religious right nostalgists, “let’s keep everything 9-5”, lunch bucket kind of thing. You’re also at odds with the libertarians who want to redefine family and redefine the traditional moral code—“

George: “Those are fair statements.”

Jerry: “On the other hand, you are, I think, creating a new intellectual structure in which those divergent elements can be reunited, almost reuniting the Reagan coalition on information theory.”

George: “Yeah, I think so. That’s really the purpose of it; it’s to show that both sides are right, it’s to put freedom on a more secure foundation and to put constitutional government and political leadership on a better foundation. I mean, all the heroic inventions of entrepreneurs on the frontiers of science are ultimately dependent on the discipline, moral codes, and leadership by politicians and leaders and ministers and priests, and the whole body of people defending the low-entropy carriers are also indispensable to the high-entropy creators.”

Jerry: “So, we await a new political entrepreneur not to wait for the public to understand this on his own, but to take this message that reunites the Reagan coalition and go out and actively teach it and create a demand for the supply of these answers in the political sphere.”

George: “I think that’s right. And I’m very optimistic. You know, the good thing about a knowledge economy, an economy of mind, is that it can change as quickly as people’s minds can change. In my book, Knowledge and Power, there’s a whole chapter full of examples of countries that have radically transformed their economies in weeks once policies have been changed. From the United States, we’ve reduced government spending 61% in two years after the second world war, with the Republican Congress of 1946. We cut tax rates all over the place through the joint tax return. We dismantled all the regulatory apparatus of the wartime, and much of the new deal. All Keynesian economists thought that the result would be a catastrophe, Paul Samuelson said it would be the worst disruption and disaster and depression in the history of economics. Instead, we launched what’s now looked back on as a golden age of American economic progress.”

Jerry: “So, we’re not doomed. We’re just doomed if we keep thinking the way we’re thinking now, but there’s no deterministic principle that says we’re going to continue thinking the way we’re thinking now.”

George: “That’s correct.”

Jerry: “Alright, I’ve gone past the time you’ve agreed to. This is the last question, and if you have to go and not answer the question, that’s fine.”

George: “I’ll do one more question. That’s fine.”

Jerry: “The question is: What’s the final thing you want to say? What did I not ask that I should’ve? What do you want to leave us with that we didn’t touch upon in this interview?”

George: “One area where the information theory really applies is public opinion. I think one of the real problems of our politics is politicians are governed by public opinion polls, and thus they try to tell the public what they already think, and this means zero-entropy communication, zero-surprise communication. It makes politicians boring and focuses the attention of the press on their mistakes. The only surprises that come out of a political debate are missteps and misstatements. What we need is high-entropy politics and politicians who are willing to be leaders and transform public opinion. Public opinion is mostly a phantom — as Walter Lippmann said a century ago, The Phantom Public. If politicians are doing market surveys and public opinion polls and fear to make clear, coherent statements of their goals and purposes, they will fail. They will earn the contempt of the public. That’s what they’ve done. That’s why we need to have a new era of leadership that Reagan really epitomized. I think the Reagan coalition of low-entropy conservatism and high-entropy creativity needs is the hope for the future of America today.”

Jerry: “If we don’t like public opinion, then let’s get a new one.”

George: “Yes. It takes leadership.”

Jerry: “It takes risk, too.”

George: “You can’t just figure out what the public already thinks, and then tell them that and expect them to be thrilled by your leadership.”

Jerry: “I think Knowledge and Power is probably the most important economics book that I’ve read in 10, maybe 20 years. I would put it on the shelf next to Knowledge and Decisions by Thomas Sowell, or next to any of the classics from Hayek or von Mises. It is an important book; it is an intellectually challenging book, but it’s worth the challenge. The author of that book, George Gilder, has been our guest today. George, I’m very much in your debt for you taking the time to be with us.”

George: “Thank you so much.”

 

Article originally published on Forbes.com.

Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.

Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.

Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.

Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.

Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.

Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest five of their seven children.

 

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