Crediting the captain, not the storm

I liked this quote from Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers.

Politicians are in charge of the modern economy in much the same way as a sailor is in charge of a small boat in a storm. The consequences of their losing control completely may be catastrophic (as civil war and hyperinflation in parts of the former Soviet empire have recently reminded us), but even while they keep afloat, their influence over the course of events is tiny in comparison with that of the storm around them. We who are their passengers may focus our hopes and fears upon them, and express profound gratitude toward them if we reach harbor safely, but that is chiefly because it seems pointless to thank the storm.

I think this extends to most fields of human endeavour, not just politics. It also reminds of my favourite cognitive bias.

Hat tips: @timkastelle’s tweet led me to this post by William Easterly. Greg Mankiw and Peter Gordon were in the chain too.

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