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Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Let a thousand flowers bloom

Only possible in a market economy

Don Boudreaux has a lovely essay in the Christian Science Monitor (interest declaration: he mentions my book) in which he makes the point people often miss about markets, that they encourage diversity rather than one-size-fits-all solutions:

Contrast the multitude of different market-generated and voluntarily adopted ideas with the ideas of progressives - for example, progressives' idea thatgovernment must regulate the fat content of foods.

Each of us can decide how much we value, say, juicy burgers and double-dark chocolate ice cream compared to how much we value a trim waistline and longer life expectancy. And each of us values these benefits differently. The dietary choices that I make for myself are right for me, but I cannot know if they are right for anyone else. Progressives, in contrast, falsely assume there's a single correct metric, for the whole country, that determines for everyone how to trade off the satisfaction of eating tasty but fatty foods for the benefit of being healthier.

It's in this way that progressives' ideas are indeed big and bold - for these ideas are about how millions of other individuals should live their lives. In practice, these are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else's contracts, social relations, diets, and even moral sentiments.

I never cease to be astonished by the paternalist instincts of most bien-pensant intellectuals on things like diet. This word `progressive' is problematic, though. I insist I am a progressive: I think progress is a good thing, socially as well as economically. But to most it seems to mean getting the state to do things. We've been trying that since the Bronze Age and it keeps ending in tyranny and stagnation.