Thursday, February 14, 2008

Freedom can't exist without trusting the untrustworthy

This is an extension of the commentary from this post from MichaelW.

Have you heard the truism that a person is smart, but people are dumb?

On the one hand it's profoundly true. On the other hand we fail to understand that the opposite is also profoundly true. A person is dumb, but people are smart.

Dumb people, making sub-optimal individual decisions, somehow manage to combine in aggregate into communities that most often are remarkably robust and remarkably effective.

It works with a market, where individuals make poor decisions about what to produce and what to buy. Somehow, with all those individual mistakes the result is highly effective and highly responsive. Compare that flawed mish-mash of poor decisions to what happens when there is directed organization and decision making, usually by experts, and the unwashed masses directing their own lives come out on top. Waaaay on top.

It would also work in education, given a chance.

Do I trust my fundie neighbor to do the best possible job teaching her children? Do I trust the secular unschooler down the street? Do I trust the Muslim who recently immigrated and would rather not have his child in public school? Do I trust the Amish who don't (I'm told) educate past 8th grade? Do I trust the polyamorist wiccan coven who wants to start a day school?

Not only no, but hell no.

But do I trust them in aggregate? Do I trust the robust nature of the way all of our various choices work together to optimize the end result? Do I trust the flexibility and diversity of knowledge and ideas to mesh into a whole that is by far the most desirable and effective totality of education to advance our country and perhaps our world into an unknowable future?

Yes, I do.

I trust people.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ymarsakar said...

That's a very good point. And if you know me, you know I like these paradoxes. I like collecting them, you may say.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Synova said...

The options are either to trust people, or to try to control them.

We allow a whole lot because we don't trust those *other* people over there to manage their own lives, raise their own children, and make their own decisions.

Particularly when it comes to kids... give contraceptives to middle school girls? Well, *my* kid can come to me, but what about all those *other* girls? Huh? What about *them*?

So even people who know better insist on rules that assume that everyone is fundamentally disfunctional, abusive, or inept.

7:33 PM  

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