Statism is not creationism
Via Crumb Trail, a critique of statism as tantamount to creationism, by Don Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University, and apparently an ardent libertarian.
He writes that just as creationism insists that only an intelligent, intentional creator could create the marvelous order and complexity of living creatures, so do statists (he focuses his ire on left-liberals) insist that only an intelligent, intentional government can create order and prosperity in society. Both fundamentally fail to see that order can emerge spontaneously from chaos. Natural selection shows how mindless algorithms create design, and Hayek-ian market theory shows how social order emerges from individual self-interest.
This analogy is intended to sting people like me - committed Darwinians who despise creationism yet are left-liberals also committed to the use of state power to improve society. Fortunately for me though, the analogy is flawed, in two basic ways.
Creationism makes easily-rejected empirical claims, whereas statism makes normative claims that are harder to dismiss
Creationism and statism are different kinds of theories. Creationism is a descriptive theory, claiming to present the actual history of the origin of life, and it is false on empirical grounds. Though most of its proponents have normative motivations (i.e., hating 'godless' evolution), the theory of creationism itself makes no normative judgments and therefore stands or falls (i.e., falls) on empirical facts. In contrast, statism is both descriptive and normative: it claims that the state is the best provider of order, prosperity, etc., and bases these claims on both empirical facts (about what the state can do) and value judgments (about what things are worth doing, the relative values of liberty and equality, etc.). Thus, the debate between creationism and evolution is largely a no-brainer if you accept the facts, whereas the debate between statism and libertarianism is much harder to resolve.
To draw further on this distinction: The similarity between natural selection and free markets is that they operate by stupid, intention-less principles. Without intention, they are morality-neutral, and thus may not always produce good or desirable results. Natural selection has produced monstrosities that are "good" in the sense of reproducing well, but pretty awful in any other sense - parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in caterpillars, which the wasp larvae then devour alive once they hatch; all sorts of horrible diseases; etc. Similarly, free markets do not necessarily produce results that match human ends - e.g., depending on your moral views, the inequality produced by free markets might be a bad thing. There is no recourse when natural selection produces "bad" results, but statism posits that the state can fix the bad results of the market.
Furthermore, natural selection and free market theory rely on different logics, which their similar reliance on mindless, non-intentional algorithms obscures. The logic of natural selection guarantees that over a long time, populations change to become better at reproducing (and thus more "adapted"), because the genes of individuals that are better-reproducing tend to become more widespread in the population. In contrast, free markets have no such guarantee because they are not subject to this selective pressure. They really do arise spontaneously. It's like those disclaimers that say, "this product is provided 'as is' and we make no guarantees on its quality." Free markets do not replicate themselves with slight mutations, such that those that more efficiently distribute resources reproduce faster than those that don't. Without this pressure to increase order over time, we're stuck with whatever imperfections arise spontaneously from a certain market system.
Statism does not posit an 'uncaused Creator'
God is a skyhook; states are cranes. Cranes and skyhooks are another Dennett metaphor: both cranes and skyhooks can raise objects from the ground, but cranes are also based on the ground, while skyhooks appear out of nowhere from the sky, in contradiction of the laws of physics. Natural selection is a crane because it builds up design from undesign, whereas creationism is a skyhook because it requires a deus ex machina, a supernatural power that merely begs the question - it can't explain its own design.
In contrast, states are cranes, not skyhooks. They are institutions made up of people, organized to exercise legitimate coercion over a defined territory. These people live within society, not outside it. No statist ascribes supernatural powers to the state. So, statism is unlike creationism in that it doesn't posit skyhooks.
Moreover, as this commenter points out, in some ways libertarianism invokes an uncaused Creator much more than Sunstein-ian statism. This is because libertarians invoke "natural rights" (e.g., right to property) that can't be abridged by government (e.g., taxation). But where do these natural rights come from? The traditional American answer is obviously creationist ("they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights"). But even answering "human nature" smacks of essentialism, a very creationist idea. (Darwinism recognizes, indeed requires, that species exist as variable populations without a defined essence.) In contrast, rights as social constructions (e.g., rights granted by the state, as Sunstein argues), fits much better with the idea of order arising naturally from disorder. After all, even states emerged "naturally" out of society thousands of years ago.
So take heart, liberals: you're not really creationists, after all.