Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 27, 2021

in Complexity & Emergence, Hayek, Hubris and humility, Myths and Fallacies, Science, Scientism

… is from page 163 of F.A. Hayek’s great 1952 book The Counter-Revolution of Science, as this book appears as part of volume 13 (Studies on the Abuse & Decline of Reason, Bruce Caldwell, ed. [2010]) of the Collected Works of F.A. Hayek:

[T]he task of social organisation differs fundamentally from that of organising given material resources. The fact that no single mind can know more than a fraction of what is known to all individual minds sets limits to the extent to which conscious direction can improve upon the results of unconscious social processes. Man has not deliberately designed this process and has begun to understand it only long after it had grown up. But that something which not only does not rely on deliberate control for its working, but has not even been deliberately designed, should bring about desirable results, which we might not be able to bring about otherwise, is a conclusion the natural scientist seems to find difficult to accept.

DBx: Yes – and so for public-policy makers to “follow the science” requires that they follow also the best of the social sciences. And among the very best of the social sciences – namely, scholarship done in the tradition of Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, F.A. Hayek, Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, James Buchanan, and Harold Demsetz – is economics that shows that there is never for any social ‘problem’ an objective ‘solution’ of the sort that can be discovered or deduced in the same way that, say, astronomers determine when Haley’s Comet will next be visible with the naked eye from earth. It is a scientific fact that there are (as Thomas Sowell says) only trade-offs. This scientific reality, unfortunately, is usually ignored, or even denied, by those persons who bleat most loudly about the need for policy-makers to “follow the science.”

Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: