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Again, That Curious Task

Posted By Don Boudreaux On September 21, 2011 @ 9:18 am In Curious Task,Hayek,Hubris and humility,Scientism,Seen and Unseen | Comments Disabled

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Kathleen Parker’s discussion of two kinds of smarts – “book smarts and street smarts” (“Smart money betting on stupid politicians [1],” Sept. 18) – calls to mind a vital point made by F.A. Hayek in his 1945 article “The Use of Knowledge in Society [2]“:

“Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge.  But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place.  It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active cooperation.”

Too many “Progressives” overestimate the importance of scientific knowledge (“book smarts”) relative to that of “knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place” (“street smarts”) – and too many conservatives commit the opposite error.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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[1] Smart money betting on stupid politicians: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/smart-money-betting-on-stupid-politicians/2011/09/16/gIQAw1tWYK_story.html

[2] The Use of Knowledge in Society: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html

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