Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Otteson Writing in Forbes: "Get Rid Of Government Experts"

James R. Otteson, Joint Professor of Philosophy and Economics at Yeshiva University in New York, and the Charles G. Koch Senior Fellow at The Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C., has a new commentary in Forbes. Its main thesis is that regardless of the benevolent intentions of government experts, they simply do not have the particular knowledge required to get outcomes right in a nation of over 300 million unique individuals.
. . . experts, however smart, cannot know . . . all the most important things. They don't know your goals, your ambitions or your priorities. They don't know what your values are; they don't know what opportunities are available to you (and what aren't); they don't know your likes and dislikes. Even if they know a lot about human behavior or human welfare in general, they don't know anything about you. They don't know anything about me either, or about anyone else besides themselves and their closest family and friends.

That means that the best they could do is make guesses. But even that overstates their competence. Think of all the information--explicit and implicit--you marshal all day long every day to make the routine decisions you do. What are you going to do for breakfast today? Will you call your friend this afternoon? Will you finally buy your daughter the cellphone she's been asking for? Or larger questions: Should you buy a new house? Look for a new job? Buy or lease a car--and which one?

(Read the full commentary)

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