Asymmetric Interpretations


Knowledge consists of the triad: information, interpretation, and judgement. Much of modern political economy has miscarried by proceeding as though knowledge were merely “information” that is, as though interpretation were symmetric and final. Economic prosperity depends greatly on new knowledge or “discovery” of profit opportunities that translate into social betterment. These discoveries are often a transcending of the working interpretation, not merely the acquisition of new information. The evolution of interpretations is key to appreciating voluntarism as a maxim for policy. Smith, Hayek, and Kirzner taught that bad public policy is partly the result of not knowing better, not of evil or greed. Economists may justify their efforts and their salaries chiefly by teaching citizens to know better. Such is the economist’s calling.La connaissance consiste en une triade : information, interprétation, et jugement. Une bonne part de l’économie politique moderne a échoué en assimilant la connaissance à l’information, ce qui revenait à dire que l’interprétation était symétrique et ultime. La prospérité économique repose dans une grande mesure sur l’émergence de nouvelles connaissances ou la “découverte” d’occasions de profit porteuses d’améliorations sociales. Souvent ces découvertes transcendent l’interprétation courante et non seulement l’acquisition de nouvelles informations. L’évolution des interprétations est essentielle pour évaluer le volontarisme en tant que maxime pour la politique. Smith, Hayek et Kirzner nous ont enseigné que des politiques publiques inappropriées résultent en partie d’une déficience de connaissances plutôt que de mauvaises intentions ou d’avidité. Les économistes peuvent justifier leurs efforts et leurs salaires essentiellement en apprenant aux citoyens à s’enrichir de connaissances. Telle est la vocation de l’économiste.

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