Jacob T. Levy writes at Cato Unbound on the philosophy of James Scott's Seeing Like A State, and the libertarian lessons therein:
Like our social contractarian forbears, we too easily imagine the modern state as natural and unquestionable. We moreover too easily assume away the information and knowledge problems that in very different ways have so preoccupied Hayek, Foucault, and Scott. We ask what states should do without wondering what they would have to know in order to do it, or how they would gain that knowledge, or what the effects would be of their attempts to do so. The combination of Seeing Like a State with The Art of Not Being Governed reveals a world in which states are particular kinds of social projects, not natural preconditions for social order; in which states’ knowledge and penetration of their societies comes in degrees; and in which states’ activities may create their own limits by provoking those being governed.
The first conservative insight is epistemological: how do we know what we think we know?
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