Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Intelligibility

FLG stumbled upon this video of an interview of Hayek by Bork and noticed a couple of noteworthy things. First, there's the somewhat anachronistic line of questioning by Bork about how intellectuals, including academic economists, are reflexively pro-regulation. Second, Hayek's response, which is fascinating to FLG, at least in light of FLG's Time Horizons Theory(TM) and the corollary about empiricism.

Hayek says:
The resistance against being guided by something that is unintelligible to them is, I think, quite understandable in an intellectual. Go back to the origin of it all. Descartes, of course, explicitly argued that we should not believe anything that we did not understand. But his followers immediately applied it that we should not accept any rules which we did not understand. And the intellectual has a very strong feeling that what is not comprehensible must be nonsense. And to him the rules that he is required to obey are unintelligible, and therefore nonsense. He defines rational almost as intelligible and anything that is not intelligible to him is automatically irrational and he is opposed to it.


He then continues:
Yes, but that dislike [of free markets thinking by intellectuals], I think, is due to it being unintelligible to them. They want to make it intelligible, translucent to them. Nothing can be good unless it is demonstrated to you that in the particular case it achieves a good object. And that of course is impossible. You can only understand the structure as the principle of it, but you couldn't possibly demonstrate that in the particular event, the particular change has a purpose because it is always connected with the system as a whole. You can only understand in principle, but not in detail. So, I would give them the benefit of the doubt at least. In most instances, it's a deeply ingrained intellectual attitude which forces them to disapprove of something that seems to them unintelligible and to prefer something which is visibly directed towards a good purpose.

1 comment:

Alpheus said...

Even if they can't perceive in every case the virtues of the free market, you'd think they'd be able to understand the dangers inherent in planning.

 
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