We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

More on the Safety Calculation Debate

This posting began life as a continuation of the previous posting, which I suggest you read first. Adriana read the previous thing and said you’ve got two blogs there, not just one. I’ll take her word for it, and this is Part 2.

So, we’re comparing the actual Economic Calculation debate (Mises, Hayek etc.) with a proposed equivalent in the realm of Public Safety. Continue…

Another big point, which was made by Richard Miniter at the Simon Davies meeting, concerns the matter of what kind of information we’re talking about here. (Miniter is a colleague of Tim Evans at the Centre for the New Europe. His book The Myth of Market Share is coming out in October, and he will also be bringing out another book soon about the Clinton regime’s handling of Al-Qaeda. Verdict: they handled it badly.)

One of the basic impossibilities of central planning, made much of especially by Hayek, concerned the importance of “unexplicit” knowledge, the sort of knowledge that consists of knowing, without having a prayer of being able to convince a state bureaucrat about it, that this kind of product would be just, you know, nicer than that one, and that people will prefer the nicer one. An entrepreneur in a free economy is able to back his hunch with his own money.

Hunch. Now there’s an interesting word. Hunches are those things that old-fashioned policemen also used to have. They would have a feeling that something bad was being planned, or that someone bad had already done something bad, and they’d act.

Mostly how they’d act is by trying to obtain some more information, of the explicit sort, the sort that you can type into a computerised database without being accused of unsubstantiated waffling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that people should be banged up in jail just because some old copper doesn’t like the smell of them. What I am arguing is that the shift from observation to action and hence, perhaps, to something like prevention, should not depend on persuading the Great Centralised Security Beast in Washington or London or wherever that this is a good idea. Public safety, I’m arguing, is a lot more like washing machines that work and for which you can get decent spare parts and maintenance than public safety is now assumed to be.

(See also my short Libertarian Alliance piece The Menace of the Apocalyptic Individual (Political Notes 164), towards the end, for a brief elaboration of that last point. This was written before 9/11, but survives 9/11 really quite well.)

Well, I could go on, and at the privacy(?) of my own desk I intend to. But maybe all this has been said before and said better, and if so I’d like to know. I could live with that. I’m one of Hayek’s second-hand dealers in ideas. I only resort to trying to make an actual car in my own garage (or more realistically, to urging others to get to work on the thing) if the required intellectual vehicle does not already exist.

Comments are closed.