Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 23, 2022

in Hubris and humility, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 8 of Deirdre McCloskey’s 2021 book, Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science:

We humans live in economies the way we live in cities and in language and in art and in cookery and in the natural environment. Attempts at overmastering by central planning usually do not work. We should restrain therefore the impulse for a masterful prediction and control, and impulse theorized in August Comte’s constructivist rubric two centuries ago savior pour pouvoir. As it was put by the philosopher Yogi Berra (and, it turns out, the physicist Niels Bohr), in the face of human creativity, or of quantum mechanics, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. So, therefore, is control.

DBx: Truly so. And so a fundamental problem with advocates of full-on socialism, as well as with advocates of the socialism-lite that’s called “industrial policy,” is that they do not know what they do not know. They erroneously believe that they know more than they can possibly know. They mistake the images in their minds, and the words on their laptops and in their PowerPoint presentations, for reality. They falsely conclude that their ability to easily describe some imagined future implies an ability actually to create that imagined future.

And not only do these people not know about the present and the future what they think they know, they don’t know enough even of what is knowable about the past – about economic history and the many failures of socialism and of “industrial policy.”

These people do not know that they write, talk, and propose policies as if they are gods. But sensible individuals know that these people are not gods. Sensible individuals know also to beware of the ignorance-fueled hubris of people whose policy proposals would make sense only if and when such proposals are issued by genuine gods.

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