Knowledge And Decisions

Knowledge And Decisions

Thomas Sowell

Language: English

Pages: 422

ISBN: 0465037380

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


With a new preface by the author, this reissue of Thomas Sowell’s classic study of decision making updates his seminal work in the context of The Vision of the Annointed, Sowell, one of America’s most celebrated public intellectuals, describes in concrete detail how knowledge is shared and disseminated throughout modern society. He warns that society suffers from an ever-widening gap between firsthand knowledge and decision making—a gap that threatens not only our economic and political efficiency, but our very freedom because actual knowledge gets replaced by assumptions based on an abstract and elitist social vision f what ought to be.Knowledge and Decisions, a winner of the 1980 Law and Economics Center Prize, was heralded as a ”landmark work” and selected for this prize ”because of its cogent contribution to our understanding of the differences between the market process and the process of government.” In announcing the award, the center acclaimed Sowell, whose ”contribution to our understanding of the process of regulation alone would make the book important, but in reemphasizing the diversity and efficiency that the market makes possible, [his] work goes deeper and becomes even more significant.”

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decision making, all the knowledge which is finally available to the decision maker is not initially available when the sequence of decisions begins, and the course of action followed may be wholly different from what it would have been if all the knowledge had been available at the outset, or if any decision could have been postponed until after all the facts were in. Many early supporters of the Vietnam war came ultimately to the position that it was not worth the cost, after the full cost had

evidence-are often sacrificed to the intellectual vision or the self-interest of the intellectual class. For example, antidemocratic processes may be described by democratic rhetoric as "participation" or "public" representation. Presumption may be substituted for evidence-past, present, or future-as in numerous arguments that the national I.Q. was declining, or existing evidence may be resolutely disregarded, as in claims that crime rates reflect social "root causes," or that "innovative"

disenchantment has begun to penetrate the insulation of courts, bureaucracies, and other institutions. The Burger Court is not the Warren Court, though it is hardly the pre-Warren Court either. Deregulation moves by the Civil Aeronautics Board, stronger criminal sentencing laws in various states, and the defeat of school bond issues that were once passed easily are all signs that nothing is inevitable. Whether this particular period is merely a pause in a long march or a time of reassessment for

Jones, American Immigration (University of Chicago Press) pp. 212213. 12. Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (Harper and Row, 1957), p. 4. 13. Thorstein Veblen, The Place of Science in Modern Civilization (Russell & Russell, 1961), p. 251. 14. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Everyman's Library, 1967), p. 84. 15. Loc. cit. 16. Quoted in F. A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty (University of Chicago Press, 1973), Vol. 1, p. 26. 17. Edmund Burke, op. cit.,

"participate" may be very unrepresentative of the public. In practice, participatory democracy means that broadly elected representatives are to share power with self-selected representatives of narrow vocal constituencies. From the standpoint of the institutional transmission and authentication of knowledge, it means that instead of having insiders judge processes and outsiders judge results, some outsiders are to judge and change processes on the basis of their part-time experience on the

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