Words by c.z.robertson

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

2011-05-29 00:56:47 GMT/BST

A couple of friends have pointed me to the Adam Curtis documentary, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Love and Power. This is part one of a series. I'm a bit of an Ayn Rand fan so I gave it a go. If you've also had the misfortune of watching it then you might be interested in my response:

Well... it's a narrative...

I'm sure that Hayek and The Use of Knowledge in Society should come into it somewhere. And, perhaps more importantly, Stafford Beer and Cybersyn should surely come into it. I think that would screw up the thesis fundamentally though.

It doesn't show strong evidence of influence from the "Californian Ideology" to political power as wielded by Washington and lobbyists from Wall Street. Furthermore, there's a tradition of economists being sceptical of political control of economies that long predates computers. See Hayek, see the role of "equilibrium" in classical economics.

(Note also that even if one says that political control of an economy won't bring stability, that doesn't necessarily imply that a laissez-faire approach will bring stability. And, of course, stability is not the only virtue that you might ask of an economic system.)

Rand... I'm still scratching my head about how her complicated love life is supposed to fit into all of this.

And even if Greenspan counted himself as an objectivist, it's not obvious that those beliefs have had a direct bearing on his actions as chairman of the Fed. (Since he was also a monetarist you might just as easily point to the influence of Milton Friedman.) And also, he was only chairman of the Fed. Contrary to some of the claims of this documentary, I believe that's actually a role with only limited power.

I fail to see what relevance that Carmen Hermosillo essay has to the argument of the documentary.

Ultimately, it's a confused mess. I won't be watching the rest of the series.