Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 14, 2013

in Hubris and humility, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 229 of Thomas Sowell’s 1987 book, A Conflict of Visions:

Differences between the moral-intellectual elite and the masses are crucial, especially to modern conflicts of vision over the degree of surrogate decision-making, whether by politicians, judges, or various agencies and commissions.  Both visions try to make the locus of discretion coincide with the locus of knowledge, but they conceive of knowledge in such radically different terms as to lead to opposite conclusions as to where discretion should be vested.  To those with the unconstrained vision, who see knowledge and reason as concentrated in those who have advanced furthest toward the ultimate potential of man, surrogate decision-making – economic “planning,” judicial activism, etc. – is essential.  These surrogate decision-makers must attempt both to influence beforehand and to revise afterward the decisions made by those less accomplished in intellectual or moral terms.  But to those with the constrained vision, each individual’s knowledge is so grossly inadequate, compared to the knowledge mobilized systematically through economic markets, traditional values, and other social processes, that surrogate decision-makers … should severely limit themselves to drawing up rules defining the boundaries of others’ discretion, not second-guess the decisions actually made within those boundaries.  In the constrained vision, the loci of discretion should be as widely scattered as possible, the inevitable errors resulting being accepted as a trade-off, no solution being possible.

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