Not Knowing - And Still Acting

Jim Manzi fisks a NYT article on uncertainty in economics. It starts out well and then veers into, well, let Jim explain:

The author writes that “A depression seemed possible two years ago, and thanks to the ideas of economists, that didn’t happen.” [Bold added] But, as per the first half of the article, how do we know that a depression didn’t happen because of the ideas of economists? We don’t.

It is extremely hard to maintain awareness of our own ignorance when trying to make real-world decisions. The article ends with a quote by currently-fashionable behavioral economist Dan Ariely:

"If you have a simple problem, you can offer a simple solution. But the economy is a hugely complex problem. So we either simplify the problem and offer a solution, or embrace the complexity and do nothing."

But there is an unconsidered alternative that permits us to constantly recognize our ignorance, yet not be paralyzed: The Open Society. This is the whole point (in my view) of the institutions of representative democracy, limited, law-bound government, and free markets.

We are back to Oakeshott, Hayek and Popper, aren't we?