The Omniscient vs The Skeptic

From LPedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Omniscient vs The Skeptic are two ideologies whose view of the world are irreconcilable. They correspond to Thomas Sowell's Unconstrained vs Constrained ideology and also to his Anointed vs Tragic ideology. These are discussed at great length in Sowell's trilogy:

Issue Omniscient Skeptic
Limits of knowledge. Believes it is possible to know everything. Believes knowledge is limited, and much is unknowable.
Knowledge "Knowledge" is articulated rationality. Validation is not indirect, collective and systemic, but direct, individual, and intentional. The knowledge of "cultivated minds" is concentrated in a few, rather than dispersed among the many. "Knowledge" is predominantly experience, transmitted socially in largely inarticulate forms. The competition of institutions leads to the survival of more effective collections of cultural traits. Experts have a superiority in narrow fields, but they have no general superiority of knowledge. Systemic coordination among the many supersedes the special wisdom of the few.
Nature of Man Man's understanding and disposition are capable of intentionally creating social benefits. The intention to benefit others is the essence of virtue, and a higher sense of social duty is the long-run goal for mankind. Incentives promote selfishness. The moral limitations of man are inherent facts of life. Motivation is naturally self-centered. The constrained vision is a tragic vision of the human condition. The best is the enemy of the good. Incentives promote good results.
Social Improvement Social improvement comes by design. The potential is very different from the actual; social institutions and human beings are plastic and improvable. A solution implies it is no longer necessary to make trade-offs. Social improvement comes by evolution. Prudence and careful weighing of trade-offs is among the highest duties. Every improvement has offsetting disadvantages that may not be visible until afterwards.
Morality in Social Processes Intentional benefits (virtue) and harms (vice) and unintentional harm (negligence) have moral weight, but unintentional benefits, particularly if motivated by self-interest, do not. Untended consequences of one's choices and behavior have as much, or more, weight in moral terms than intentional motives.
Attitude towards people who disagree. They are evil. They are ignorant or stupid.
Natural Resource Constraints Human ingenuity can solve natural problems, so the persistence of bad conditions is explained by bad social institutions or bad intentions (vice) by those who have the power to act and do not do so. The limitations and passions of man are at the center of problems such as war, poverty, and crime, so ways to constrain irrational behavior are essential for peace, wealth, and lawfulness.
Ideals and Process Costs The desired results are central. Every closer approximation of the ideal should be preferred. Costs are regrettable, but not decisive. Words and concepts that revolve around intention, sincerity, commitment, and dedication are characteristic. The indirect process is central. Ideals are weighed against the cost of attaining them. The systemic characteristics deemed necessary to contribute to goals are primary property rights, free enterprise, strict construction.
Attitude towards rules Don't like them, it is better to judge things on a case by case basis. Follows them. Even though they do not have the optimum outcome in every case, they encode more knowledge than any one person can comprehend, and therefore give a good outcome more often than any single individual could.
Strong or weak government Strong. Government is able to and should right all wrongs, take care of the weak and bring happiness. Weak. Government should only defend people's rights and leave them to pursue their own interests. Rely on voluntary institutions to take care of the weak.
When government doesn't work Blames evil people in government, or special interests that have corrupted it. Blames the system or blames the inherent incompetence of government.
Democracy or Republic Prefers direct Democracy. The more people that give input into a decision, the better the decision. Republic. People don't have the time, expertise or inclination to properly research every issue. They should pick a few good people who will spend the time to make good decisions.
Most likely alternative party affiliation Green Libertarian
Problems Every problem has a perfect solution. Although some solutions are better than others, all solutions have tradeoffs and side effects.
Is society mainly a Zero Sum or Non-Zero Sum game? Zero sum Non-zero sum
Rich people Usually got wealthy by stealing from the poor. Usually earned their wealth.
Political Power Trusts political power, so long as it is voted on. Distrusts political power, insists on limits to power.
Money Distrusts money, considers money coercive. Trusts money, believes it enhances personal choice.
Lying to advance a good cause OK because advancing a good cause is more important than abstract truth. Very bad. No one is knowledgeable enough to know when a cause is good enough to justify lying. In the long run lying is counterproductive because it undermines credibility.