… is from page 46 of Thomas Sowell’s superb 1987 volume, A Conflict of Visions:
With knowledge conceived of as both fragmented and widely dispersed, systemic coordination among the many supersedes the special wisdom of the few.
DBx: Many people – and especially intellectuals – do not know this about knowledge. They think of knowledge as consisting only of those facts, propositions, and relationships that can be articulated. This conception of knowledge is almost always paired with a conception of reality as being far simpler than it really is.
The intellectual – proudly boasting a PhD and assured of his or her competence to re-engineer society by his or her several publications in the Journal of Intersectional Legal Multitudinous Transformational Studies – mistakes words for things, and imagination for reality.
“The manufacturing sector,” for example, is in the mind of the intellectual an objective thing with concrete and sharp boundaries, and whose operation consists exclusively of what is observable to the intellectual. This objective thing interacts with other relatively simple objective things (for example, “the service sector,” “the merchandise balance of trade,” and “average manufacturing wages”) in ways that the intellectual articulates. The intellectual then proposes that government tweak this objective thing, to prohibit that objective thing, and to stimulate some other objective thing, with the imagined results of these tweaks, prohibitions, and stimuli being a new and better arrangement of objective things.
The intellectual misses nearly all of the details that in reality give rise to, and sustain, the objective things observed by the intellectual. The intellectual arrogantly supposes that that which he or she doesn’t see or cannot describe with words is unreal or irrelevant.
To the intellectual, reality is oh so simple. And being also less than ideal compared to what the intellectual can imagine, reality is, for the intellectual, in need of being rearranged under the guidance of the intellectual. By force, of course.