Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2017

in Complexity & Emergence, Curious Task, Hubris and humility, Man of System, Scientism

… is from page 49 of the 1964 Harper Torchbooks edition of Karl Popper’s brilliant 1957 volume, The Poverty of Historicism:

UnknownAny social science which does not teach the impossibility of rational social construction is entirely blind to the most important facts of social life, and must overlook the only social laws of real validity and of real importance.

DBx: “The only social laws of real validity and of real importance” are those that take account both of the open-endedness and of the many historical contingencies of social reality.

Society, and that part of society that we call “the economy,” are far more complex and contingent than most people realize.  And the fact that clever intellectuals use labels and words in ways that give the appearance of having reduced this colossal complexity into a relatively few seemingly meaningful, seemingly ‘graspable,’ and seemingly manipulable units (“the steel industry,” “the government,” “the nation,” “consumers,” “foreign trade,” “aggregate demand,” “education expenditures,” “the press”) does nothing, in fact, to diminish this complexity or otherwise to better enable even the smartest professors or politicians to engineer society according to their (or to anyone else’s) designs.  To believe otherwise is a conceit that is always futile and often fatal.


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