Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(In remembrance of the 250th anniversary of Pangloss’s birth)

Pangloss was Voltaire’s fictional philosopher of optimism in his satirical work, Candide (written in 1759 AD). According to Pangloss, “… all that is is for the best. If there is a volcano at Lisbon it cannot be elsewhere. It is impossible that things should be other than they are; for everything is right” (p. 21); and “… all is for the best in the moral and physical world, …” (p. 114).

Well, unsurprisingly, considering his previous feats of survival, Pangloss[1] has found his way into the twenty-first century (“Oh déjà vu!”) because panglossophers are everywhere—professors of unremitting optimism; advocates of spontaneous order; devotees of blind, mechanistic optimizing systems; preachers of “attract everything you desire;” and so forth. Here is a small sampling from the modern-day panglossary of excessive optimism.[2]

Big is better: self-evidently optimal in all cases (aka, the proof is in the disparity). In addition, economies-of-scale are uniquely suited to tilt level playing fields to a quasi-vertical, favorable slope which speeds up assembly-line production; asset acquisition from smaller, less robust capitalists; and capitulation by antagonists. Bigger also means transnational, (with a judicious eye on emerging trans-world options); and since anything trans is more optimal than non-trans, (except for the edible fats market[3]), government is optimal that refuses to regulate growth and bigness in all its forms. Further, bigness insulates from annoying complaints, from unstable flexibility, from big bullies, from confusing the right hand with the left[4], and from a myriad other inconsequentials.

Borrowing & Spending: since housing and land prices always go up (except when they briefly go down) mortgages are optimistically good investments. And since the best thing to do, to stimulate the economy and to manufacture growth, is to spend, it is best to buy as much as you can leverage. If you save, you are just loaning your money (via your banker who skims interest) to someone else to finance their consumption, so the best of all possible options is to spend it yourself, or, in the even more optimal alternative, to borrow from a foolish saver and consume while the consuming is good.

Entropy: although buildings, monuments, pyramids, archives, books, art, software, computers, vehicles, human bodies, etc. (ad infinitum) are all subject to the law of entropy[5], laissez-faire markets and human folly are different, both being undirected by an invisible hand of naturally occurring allocations, growth, and repetition. The entropy part may not be optimal for the status quo, but it is surely optimal for new markets in constituent elements. As for human folly, that too is for the best because optimistically, humans learn by experience, and reportedly more from mistakes than from successes.

Laissez-faire markets (aka, Panglossonomics): a perfectly free market-place is blind to bias, prone to systemic order, and invisibly self-driven to optimal allocations of the market’s best interest. Self-interest and self-regulation result in optimal global coordination of rich (though scarce) global resources managed by HyPEs [highly paid employees] on behalf of an aggregate of dispersed, disparate, generally disinterested investor/owners. If things don’t appear to be optimal, the various markets will correct themselves in due course if left sufficiently to themselves, or—in the second-best alternative—if given sufficient stimuli by an aggregate of dispersed, disparate, generally compliant (though complaining) taxpayers. In this best of all possible economic systems, the free, competitive markets will always work out what is best.

Lawses (pronounced losses) of Attraction: if you haven’t got what you want, you haven’t obeyed the Law of Attraction. Displace all suggestions/thoughts to the contrary. And remember, if prophets, apostles, saints, and sages died [often martyred, mind you!] without receiving the “good stuff,” it was because they either didn’t discover the Law or, if they did, just didn’t get with the program. Thus, keep your optimistic eye on the ball and it will come.

Merit: if you have it, you deserve it. If you don’t have it, you don’t deserve having it. It’s all as it should be. You are in the best of all possible worlds, whether with or without health insurance, with or without a job, with or without shelter, etc., etc., etc. And pay special attention to the moral hazard of helping those who don’t merit—for it has been soundly proven statistically that those who are insured[6] against misfortune or irresponsibility have more of it. It’s better for the poor and unfortunate not to be insured for their own optimal moral good, growth, and safety. (Note, however—for those who can afford insurance, don’t leave home without it.)

Philanthropy: the superlative art and science of minimizing wages and costs of production or service in order to optimize charitable givings that can be used to build libraries, museums, galleries, schools, parks, art centres, sports arenas, etc., etc., or to establish endowments, scholarships, etc., etc., for 1) perpetuating and honoring the family or corporate name; and 2) for the public good (of those whose salaries are sufficient to use or merit the above).

A note to the Candides and Cunegondes of this world: A little experience should go a fair way to tempering Panglossian optimism.

[1] And the philosophy of incessant, romanticized optimism, espoused by Leibnitz, that Voltaire found so distasteful.
[2] Again a note to those with high-horses saddled with optimism. Optimism has its place, but too often it sets up expectations that WILL NOT be met because life is NOT a bed of roses; it IS the entire bushthorns and all.
[3] Note: the efficiency of both trans-and non-trans fats and oils has been demonstrated to advantage during lobby-sponsored luncheons, proving the panglossian point that everything has an optimal purpose and use.
[4] In voluntary compliance with a variation of "But when thou doest alms [or secret deals, etc.], let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:" (New Testament Matthew 6:3)
[5] Law of Entropy: Tendency of matter to disintegrate into its smallest constituent elements over time without the intervention of externally imposed order or maintenance.
[6] Especially via government-run programs of last resort when the omniscient market finds no profit in it or too much risk.
*Ref: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Candide, by Voltaire [EBook #19942]
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