…when the government ascends the steps of the economic bell tower.
The most fundamental root of this fact is that no government planner — or anyone else — can ever know what every given individual will value in the whole context of the myriad values available at any given market moment. (The principal political difference between government planners and everyone else is that everyone else has to take their own chances: they don’t get to force their guesses on anyone.) They simply never know what they’re talking about when they’re talking about it. This makes all of their interventions blind guess-work. When we include their own various interests, financial and political (why aren’t Chris Dodd and Barney Frank under indictment?), a more certain progress toward disaster with every move they make is very hard to picture.
Just think of the problem you have every time you go out to buy a present for someone. There’s what you can afford. Then there’s what you want to spend (it might be higher or lower than what you can afford). There’s how you hold the person you’re trying to buy the gift for. And then there’s what that person might possibly want, which might be known or unknown.
Now, multiply that by, say, a billion such decisions a day, and you begin to approach the complexity of markets. That is how resources are allocated. When government throws its club foot into that undulating matrix of nearly uncountable decisions, it comes gun first, which is why socialism is always predicated on violence, and why it so often resolves itself with outright murder (see: the 20th Century) even when it can settle for armed robbery.
In any given moment, as a free individual looking toward a free market, you have dozens, if not hundreds, of options. You look to find one that satisfies your own optimum conditions, and you hope that the option you choose, including the option to choose nothing at all, will work for you.
When government starts selecting for you, the “optimum” can only be what it imposes. Yet it doesn’t have a fraction of the information that you have at your disposal and can never have sufficient information because it is, like you, but a single economic node. The main difference between it and you is that it knows less about what it wants than you know about what you want, and it knows nothing about what you want. In place of all the knowledge of all individuals, however, government substitutes power and the threat of violence against those who do not cooperate.
Socialism’s only “human face” is the face of the cop at your door.