Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 26, 2015

in Curious Task, Economics, Man of System, Science, Scientism, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 423 of Robert Bork’s masterful 1978 volume, The Antitrust Paradox:

When an ideology is institutionalized it becomes, paradoxically, less visible – even to those who implement it.  The basic ideas are no longer apprehended or controverted, and hence it becomes easier to move further along the lines implied by those ideas.  Particular developments in the movement may be disliked and resisted, but our capacity to resist effectively is diminished if we fail to recognize that the trouble lies at the source.

One of the several errors committed by people who insist that government policy be guided only by “science” or by “the facts” is that such people mistakenly assume that the particular goals that policy should serve are widely agreed upon.  Another, closely related error is that such people either forget that trade-offs must be made in the pursuit of these goals or such people assume that consensus agreement exists also on just how to strike each of these countless trade-offs.

A third common error committed by such people is their failure to realize that ideology inevitably sculpts our conception of what are and what are not the relevant “facts” of the social sciences.

This belief that disputes over public policy can be settled by science or by “the facts” reflects, in part, social-scientists’ failure to adequately ponder branches of social science outside of their own – for example, the typical economist’s failure to study carefully history, philosophy, jurisprudence, and other branches of inquiries into human social connections.  Such a mistaken belief reflects also an ideology that regards the individual as being merely a pixel in the great mural that is presumed to be (often unthinkingly) the collective (with the collective usually defined as the nation-state).


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