Presumptions Of The Left
By Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
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If you start from a belief that the most knowledgeable person on earth does not have even one percent of the total knowledge on earth, that shoots down social engineering, economic central planning, judicial activism and innumerable other ambitious notions favored by the political left.
If no one has even one percent of the knowledge currently available, not counting the vast amounts of knowledge yet to be discovered, the imposition from the top of the notions favored by elites convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue is a formula for disaster.
Yet what the political left, even in democratic countries, share is the notion that knowledgeable and virtuous people like themselves have both a right and a duty to use the power of government to impose their superior knowledge and virtue on others.
The ignorance of people with Ph.D.s is still ignorance, the prejudices of educated elites are still prejudices, and for those with one percent of a society’s knowledge to be dictating to those with the other 99 percent is still an absurdity.
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Yup, dumb is dumb.
NO matter how many degrees or years that person has. The central command can’t possibly be as in control as the person on the front line.
That’s why the free market does so well. Many distributed agents all evaluating options and making choices. Important decisions with skin in the game. The consumer has all the information, the scarce resource allocation unit aka money, and the needs to be satisfied. What better person to be in charge of making decisions.
The free marketplace is at the same time the arbiter of all these conflicting demands for scarce resources and the judge that makes sure everyone’s needs are satisfied to the extent. Think of it as a giant calculating agent that totals up the score.
That’s why the socialist, fascist, and statist will always fail. There is no way for them to make that instantaneous calculation.
I learned that in injineering skool. Using a slide rule, you could very quickly get answers to a few significant digits. Or, you could use the computers to get a very “precise” answer with lots of meaningless digits that you’d throw away anyway because of “insignificance”. More meaningless digits didn’t make the answer better than the fast one from the analog slide rule. Most injineers in my day preferred the slide rule because it was fast and it made you think about significant digits. I saw the change as computer became more available and those injineers would write down long strings of meaningless digits as the answer. In civil engineering we learned to compute the answer and multiply be ten or a hundred as a safety factor. (That’s why buildings don’t fall down.)
So how does a leader avoid his ignorance?
He puts systems in place that put the decisions as close to the action as possible. Think Nordstroms. Think IBM sales person. Think the small individual business owner.
Fast decisions, close to the action, with complete accountability.
You won’t see that in stogy big companies or the gooferment.