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Ignorance and Markets

This is an unsigned editorial from the January 2009 issue of Philosophy (vol. 84, no. 327). Submitted for comment, without much commentary from my end. (Yet.)

Editorial: Ignorance and Markets

It may not be true that no one predicted the recent crash in the financial world. But it is certainly true that most well-informed observers and participants, including most importantly those who believed they were actually running things, were caught unawares. If they had been aware, they would have been able to avoid the worst consequences, at least for themselves, and even profit from the situation.

The 2008 financial crash has been compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall, in that just as the one signalled the end of an uncritical belief in socialism, at least of a centralised sort, the other signals the end to an uncritical belief in markets.

Let us leave aside the point that the markets of 2008 were actually heavily regulated in all sorts of ways, and so hardly unfettered. There is in fact an interesting parallel between 1989 and 2008 in one significant respect. Both events were largely unforeseen.

In one sense this is encouraging. For all our knowledge and technology there is much, even in human affairs, which is unpredictable and uncontrollable. This is, in a sense, judgment on hubris. It can also be liberating, particularly for those who do not see themselves as masters of the universe.

But should 2008 be seen as a decisive moment as far as belief in markets is concerned? Much will depend on what is meant by a market, no easy question when, as already mentioned, no markets to-day are unfettered, and are not likely to be in the foreseeable future.

We should, though, not forget that for followers of Adam Smith, such as Hayek, one of the main philosophical arguments in favour of markets was precisely the unpredictability of human action and of events more generally. From this perspective markets are not seen as perfect predictors, which there cannot be. But in situations of uncertainty they are seen as the most efficient and least hazardous way of disseminating information in a society and of responding to what cannot be predicted. It would be somewhat paradoxical if a failure of prediction was in itself taken to be an argument against a system which takes unpredictability as its starting point.

— Philosophy 84 (2009), 1. Cambridge University Press.


Monday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2010/08/17/uoltajre/comment-page-1/#comment-358156">Comment on Uoltajre! by Anna O. Morgenstern. Anna O. Morgenstern, <cite>Comments for Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-08-20)</a>. <q>I’m glad you said “anarchronistic” because if you said “anachronistic” there was going to be an argument. Going back to the main topic, it seems more and more as I start to understand history and the state better, that religion has always been a bulwark for a state of some...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-08-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/MarketUrbanism/~3/0mnI-RftH6I/">Private buses make a comeback in NYC. rationalitate, <cite>Market Urbanism</cite> (2010-08-16)</a>. <q>by Stephen Smith Transit activists have been bemoaning recent cuts in the MTA’s bus routes throughout New York City, but the cuts may have a silver lining, in particular for market urbanists: they may usher in the return of private buses to the streets of New York City. Private buses...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-08-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://twitter.com/rabble/statuses/20481900510">rabble: OH: "Ok. Te voy a let you saber si hay changes en the prioridades." Ah spanglish. <cite>Twitter / rabble</cite> (2010-08-06)</a>. <q>rabble: OH: "Ok. Te voy a let you saber si hay changes en the prioridades." Ah spanglish.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-08-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&amp;friendId=38511064&amp;blogId=537991834">Introducing PIGPEN: Local Encounters with Police and Prisons. <cite>Modesto Anarcho!&#39;s MySpace Blog</cite> (2010-08-07)</a>. <q>..Introducing PIGPEN: Local Encounters with Police and PrisonsHave you been brutalized, assulted, harassed, or abused by the Modesto or other local police departments? Modesto Anarcho Crew (MAC) is cu...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-08-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feeds.mises.org/~r/MisesBlog/~3/lV_PVU5r4D8/">IP in Cartoons. Peter G. Klein, <cite>Mises Economics Blog</cite> (2010-08-20)</a>. <q>Thanks to Tim Castelle for the pointer to Nina Paley’s great series of IP cartoons.Join the discussion and post a commentRelated posts:Iona College on IPThe Highway to Serfdom in CartoonsIP Comix</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-08-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/IgnoreTheCode/~3/a6sNuO4D3_k/">Street Slide. <cite>ignorethecode.net</cite> (2010-08-21)</a>. Usability research is awesome. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-08-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://alliance.rationalreview.com/2010/08/diogenes%E2%80%99-barrel/">Diogenes’ Barrel. James Tuttle, <cite>On ALLiance</cite> (2010-08-19)</a>. <q>The always insightful and wonderful Broadsnark has asked an important question: So I guess what I’m wondering is:  Do you market anarchist types envision a world full of artisans trading labor with one another or actual employment relationships?  Do the majority of anarchists, who don’t subscribe to capitalist or market...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-08-22.)</em></p></li>

Monday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2010/05/20/bye-bye-for-ip/">Bye-Bye for IP. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-05-20)</a>. <q>Another blast from the past, out of the same box: I believe this letter to the Durham-based Independent Weekly was published, in some form at any rate. 3 February 1995 To the Editor: The copyright hassles of Blaise Faint (Independent Weekly 2/1/95) [2010 note: alas, I no longer recall what...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2010/05/22/uncle-grady-still-has-a-gun/">Uncle Grady Still Has a Gun. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-05-22)</a>. <q>The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News; it’s a rejoinder to a recent reply to my “Uncle Grady” letter. To the Editor: Carol Robicheaux (May 15) accuses me of hubris, hypocrisy, and naivety for my preference for voluntary modes of social organization over coercive ones – as though personal...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2010/05/22/how-walter-williams-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-state/">How Walter Williams Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the State. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-05-22)</a>. <q>Walter Williams asks (CHT LRC): There are close to 7 billion people on our planet. I’d like to know how the libertarians answer this question: Does each individual on the planet have a natural or God-given right to live in the U.S.? … I believe most people, even my open-borders...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1320">05/21/10 PHD comic: 'If only' <cite>PHD Comics</cite> (2010-05-23)</a>. <q>Piled Higher &amp; Deeper by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com title: &quot;If only&quot; - originally published 5/21/2010 For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-23.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://xkcd.com/743/">Infrastructures. <cite>xkcd.com</cite> (2010-05-20)</a>.  <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-23.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502500630&amp;v=wall&amp;story_fbid=122655867757355">I'm a criminal and so are you. Tennyson McCalla, <cite>Tennyson McCalla&#39;s Facebook Links</cite> (2010-05-21)</a>. <q>I'm a criminal and so are youSource: www.cnn.comWho am I? How do I identify?    [H/T Jo Hastings. This is good stuff.]"Lately, I've been telling people that I'm a criminal. This shocks most people, since I don't 'look like' one. I'm a fairly clean-cut, light-skinned black woman with fancy degrees from Vanderbilt...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-23.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blogofbile.com/2010/05/16/julian-heicklens-2010-05-14-progress-report/">Julian Heicklen’s 2010-05-14 Progress Report. bile, <cite>blog of bile</cite> (2010-05-15)</a>. <q>FIJA DISTRIBUTIONS MAY 10–14, 2010 1. FIJA Demonstration in Trenton, NJ, 5/10/10 Jim Babb, George Donnelly, and I arrived at the U. S. District Courthouse at 402 E. State Street in Trenton, NJ, at 11:40 am on Monday, May 10, 2010. It was a sunny, but chilly and mildly windy...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-23.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2010/05/16/and-they-moved-to-stars-hollow-and-lived-happily-ever-after/">And they moved to Stars Hollow and lived happily ever after. Jill, <cite>I Blame The Patriarchy</cite> (2010-05-16)</a>. <q>This post would have appeared earlier, but I only just now got the gore and debris cleaned up. I allude to the obstreperal lobe tissue dripping from the bunkhouse rafters. That’s right, I blew another lobe, and no doubt you did, too, when you heard about the insane bill that...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-23.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://insteadofablog.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/counter-culture/">Counter Culture. Neverfox, <cite>Anarchoblogs in English</cite> (2010-05-23)</a>. <q>Allison Kilkenny writes: The free market can’t provide solutions to many social problems. As Oliver Willis (sarcastically) put it, “instead of boycotting [the] bus, rosa parks should have been an entrepreneur and started her own bus service. let the market decide.” Therein lies the problem with Libertarian [sic] philosophy. Social...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2010-05-24.)</em></p></li>

Monday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2010/05/15/fall-right-swing-left/">Fall Right, Swing Left. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-05-15)</a>. <q>“I don’t try to make you believe something you don’t believe, but to make you do something you won’t do.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein “Over and over, you’re falling, and then catching yourself from falling. And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.” — Laurie...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://humaniterations.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/stress-labor-play/">Stress, Labor &amp; Play. rechelon, <cite>Human Iterations</cite> (2010-05-14)</a>. <q>There’s a lot of talk in anarchist circles about abolishing work.  Some of it in line with the dream of a high-technology path to post-scarcity.  But a lot of it takes an alternative route and settles for simply building a ludic society — that is to say a culture that...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2010/05/14/heartwarming-marsupial-of-the-week/">Heartwarming marsupial of the week. Jill, <cite>I Blame The Patriarchy</cite> (2010-05-14)</a>. <q>What a darling fellow! This gentle furry woodland creature comes around every night at 8 o’clock to frolic amid the rotting kitchen waste in my compost bin, at which point our nightly staring contest commences. He growls at me, inch-long fangs dripping with disease, for as long as I care...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://fringeelements.tumblr.com/post/546047510">You're not giving me that option. <cite>An Act of State is an Act of War</cite> (2010-04-24)</a>. <q>In matters of state, when an agreement cannot be reached, often the other person will say, “lets agree to disagree”. This is impossible. If the person you are talking to is in the same state as you (Phillipines, United States, etc.), and that person supports the state, then he is...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/05/ambivalent-sexism.html">Ambivalent Sexism. <cite>experimentaltheology.blogspot.com</cite> (2010-05-15)</a>. This is useful: "Ambivalent Sexism Theory, as articulated by Peter Glick and Susan Fisk, suggests that while sexism is a form of prejudice it is marked by a deep ambivalence. That is, sexism is a unique and particular sort of prejudice. Generally, we think of prejudice as being characterized by strong negative feelings (and stereotypes) directed at a despised group. And, of course, many attitudes toward women are overtly derogatory. Glick and Fisk call this <em>hostile sexism.</em>" Which they distinguish from paternalistic or "benevolent" [sic] sexism. I'd just add that these are really two sides of the same coin, practiced by the same men towards different women, or the same woman in different contexts. The point is that the pedestal is always conditional, and the social carrot is very easily replaced with a social stick when a woman steps outside of the narrow requirements of the pedestalized role. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://jessewalker.blogspot.com/2010/05/instead-of-post-about-epistemic-closure.html">INSTEAD OF A POST ABOUT EPISTEMIC CLOSURE: If I were ever to. Jesse, <cite>The Perpetual Three-Dot Column</cite> (2010-05-07)</a>. <q>INSTEAD OF A POST ABOUT EPISTEMIC CLOSURE: If I were ever to join the big epistemic closure debate, the points I&#39;d want to make would be:1. Ideological in-groups have always been able to construct cocoons in which their own favorite sources take precedence over the mainstream media. The Internet may...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://reason.com/archives/2010/05/05/the-myth-of-the-menacing">The Myth of the Menacing Militias. Jesse Walker, <cite>Jesse Walker: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2010-05-05)</a>. <q>Flash back to the end of March, when the authorities hauled in nine members of the Hutaree, a Christian paramilitary group, and charged them with plotting a mass assassination of police officers. The media quickly added the arrests to the ongoing narrative of &quot;rising right-wing violence,&quot; with the Michigan-based militants...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://libertarian-labyrinth.blogspot.com/2010/05/on-enewetak-from-distributive-passions.html">On Enewetak (from The Distributive Passions) Shawn P. Wilbur, <cite>Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth</cite> (2010-05-15)</a>. <q>[This immediately follows the section I posted May 2. It originally appeared on the defunct Distributive Passions blog. Bradford Peck was the author of The World A Department Store, and prime mover, along with the Vroomans, in the cooperative movement in New England. Much of this has already taken another...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Saturday 2010-05-15.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://libertarian-labyrinth.blogspot.com/2010/04/amant-ou-mari.html">Amant ou mari? Shawn P. Wilbur, <cite>Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth</cite> (2010-04-24)</a>. <q>Proudhon (in)famously wrote, in What is Property?:On distingue dans la propriété : 1° la propriété pure et simple, le droit dominal, seigneurial sur la chose, ou, comme l'on dit, la nue propriété ; 2° la possession. « La possession, dit Duranton, est une chose de fait, et non de droit....</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2010-05-16.)</em></p></li>

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