In praise of passivity

From the quotation of the day off of Cafe Hayek. It is from the abstract of Michael Huemer’s article, “In Praise of Passivity.”

Political actors, including voters, activists, and leaders, are often ignorant of basic facts relevant to policy choices. Even experts have little understanding of the working of society and little ability to predict future outcomes. Only the most simple and uncontroversial political claims can be counted on. This is partly because political knowledge is very difficult to attain, and partly because individuals are not sufficiently motivated to attain it. As a result, the best advice for political actors is very often to simply stop trying to solve social problems, since interventions not based on precise understanding are likely to do more harm than good.

I haven’t read the full article yet, but it has sparked my curiosity. Reminds of an article we read last year about Folk Economics.

Folk economics is the intuitive economics of untrained persons. It is concerned with distribution, and does not allow for or understand incentives. Folk economic notions evolved in our ancestors in circumstances where there was little in the way of specialization, division of labor, capital investment, or economic growth. It can explain the beliefs of naive individuals regarding matters such as international trade, labor economics, law and economics, and industrial organization. It is important that voters understand economic principles. Economists would do a better job of persuading others and of teaching if we paid explicit attention to folk economics. Because untrained individuals do not fully understand gains from trade, training in economics is likely to improve welfare by increasing the number of trading opportunities. There is evidence that this is in fact true.

RD: We try to boil complex issues into these cute little anecdotes. We see a “problem” and we rush in to fix it without fully understanding if it is a problem and what is the root cause of the problem.

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