How many computer programs do you use? If you're like most people, you have a few that you use all the time (Microsoft Office stuff, web browser, email), and a large number of once-in-a-while ones (look at all the clutter in the "All Programs" menu). It's actually more complicated than that, because the number of executable files that those programs contain probably numbers in the thousands, likely in the tens of thousands.
From a security perspective, it's the file that's important. A security technology that goes back to the 1990s was the personal firewall, which watched which executable was trying to connect to the network - after all, the interesting malware was the malware that "phoned home". Blocking all but the few known programs that wanted to connect to the network was a decent step forward for security.
But it doesn't always work right. I saw this, on my corporate laptop:
That's Microsoft's personal firewall asking me if it's OK if Microsoft's Outlook email connects to the network. Dude, it's email. Yeah, it needs the 'net. And it's your email app.
I say this not to mock Microsoft who, I must say, has been doing a very good job with security for a number of years now. Rather, it's to point out the mind numbing complexity of a system as simple as personal firewalling, which is about as mature a technology as you're going to find in security these days. Even something that's been ticked off the "To Do" list for a dozen years goes Tango Uniform sometimes.
The assumption that you know how the system is working is a seductive one. I say this from personal experience - I'm one of those guys in security who's brought groundbreaking technology (VPN, vulnerability scanning, and Intrusion Detection) to the market several times in my career. I (somewhat immodestly) point this out not to brag, but to say that we screwed it up every single time.
Sure, each was an advance, but we didn't understand the way computers work. Any of the times. I've worked with scary smart people - the kind of folks who leave smart prints on the carpet when they walk by, and we never understood things as well as we thought. And it was just a few thousand executable files.
Imagine the national economy: thousands of markets, millions of companies, hundreds of millions of consumers. Look at the stock exchanges and the billions of transactions every day. Look at all the new products and brands introduced every year, and how most of them fail miserably.
And yet we keep getting snotty nosed Ivy League liberal arts majors telling us that they know just how to run things. All they need are the reins of power - to be used lightly, of course - and all will be made to work Properly.
The intellectual arrogance of my younger self and my compatriots was breathtaking, but was nothing like this. I look at the people who say that the Stimulus was "too small to really increase aggregate demand", and I think about Microsoft's personal firewall not understanding that the new Outlook executable just downloaded in the latest Patch Tuesday is, well, Microsoft Outlook.
No wonder that central economic planning is a miserable failure everywhere it's tried. The Economy isn't just bigger than central planning's practitioners imagine, it's bigger than they can possibly imagine.
I'm a bit more humble now, after my past successes. That's an odd statement, but it's absolutely true. I've learned from past efforts that tried to get things right, and only partially succeeded. Strange how we don't get a similar attitude from our Intellectual Betters who do not lack for examples of planning failures.
Maybe that's why I don't think that they're very smart. A bit harsh to say, but true. Just because you found something doesn't mean it's yours.