Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Experts,”Yes,” Government-controlled Experts, “No.”

Arnold Kling writes in the Cato Policy Report about why experts have failed to fix America’s economy. First Kling makes an important point—one this blog needs to underscore and repeat—“decentralized knowledge is becoming increasingly important.” Kling adds that “trained professionals really do have superior knowledge in their areas of expertise, and it is dangerous to pretend otherwise.”

Kling believes the rise of expertise “makes centralized power increasingly anomalous,” because power overwhelms expertise. Key Kling points:

➢ linking expertise to power . . . diminishes the diversity and competitive pressure faced by the experts. . . The power of government experts is concentrated and unchecked.

➢ private experts have to respect the dignity of the individual, because the individual has the freedom to ignore the expert. . . knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

➢ When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, [we have a] knowledge-power discrepancy. . . The authority of the state gives government experts a dangerous level of power. And the absence of market discipline gives any errors that these experts make an opportunity to accumulate and compound almost without limit. In recent decades, this knowledge-power discrepancy has gotten worse. Knowledge has grown more dispersed, while government power has become more concentrated.

Kling supplies several examples of how government power overwhelms expertise, to the detriment of all. They include government's job creation failure, the health care reform mess, botched efforts to create green industries, over-regulation of the financial industry, and the post-9/11 ineffective ballooning of our national intelligence apparatus. Kling concludes:
the way to address the knowledge-power discrepancy is to reduce the concentration of power. We should . . . resist the temptation to give power to government experts, and instead allow experts in business and nonprofit institutions to grope toward solutions to problems.

We need to fight government’s natural inclination to use expertise to advance its own political objectives, and instead send decisionmaking back to the private sector, where experts more naturally compete for the ideas that, in the eyes of consumers (us}, work best.

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