Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 4, 2020

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

… is from page 236 of Roger Koppl’s superb 2018 book, Expert Failure (link added):

Imposed knowledge cannot grow and change as freely or rapidly as synecological knowledge. In other words, it cannot grow or change as freely or rapidly as the divided knowledge emergent from an ecology of interacting, dispersed, and autonomous knowers. Imposed knowledge becomes dogma and thus deeply “unscientific” if, at least, “science” means open inquiry. Thus, apoplectic appeals to “science” in defense of the administrative state are mistaken.

DBx: Our world teems with unscientific people. And here, like Koppl above, I refer not to unschooled rubes or to those who would intentionally replace science with revelation, tradition-because-it’s-tradition, or some theology. Instead, I refer to educated, smart people who respect science.

Far too many such smart, educated people, while knowledgeable – many professionally so – of natural sciences, refuse to understand the economy scientifically. Seeing only some surface phenomena of the economy, they are blind to the inconceivably complex processes of detailed decisions and adjustments constantly in play that give rise to these relatively few observable surface phenomena.

These unscientific scientific people then, ironically, think themselves to be on the scientific forefront by measuring these surface phenomena with oh-so-sophisticated econometric tools and then proposing to improve the economy by having the government coercively adjust various of these surface  phenomena into a pattern more pleasing to the fancies of the ‘scientific’ observers.

Is the observed “distribution” of income unappealing? No problem. We can make it more appealing by having the state seize income or wealth from some people and then “redistribute” this income or wealth to other people. Easy peasy.

How about the observed origins of our imports? Does the pattern of these imports appear to show that we import too much overall? Or that we import too many ‘vital’ goods? No problem. All government must do is to use tariffs and subsidies – or more ‘comprehensive’ industrial policy – designed (scientifically!) to result in a more appealing pattern of international trade. It’s a snap!

Does it appear to you that too few workers have paid leave as part of their employment contracts? Well, your interpretation of observed reality must be accurate because you, after all, are motivated by excellent intentions and you perhaps even boast a Ph.D. or a J.D. And so the solution is objectively clear: Have the state command that more workers receive paid leave as part of their employment contracts. What could be simpler?!

This pseudo-scientific arrogance is destructive.


Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: