More on Freedom From Sowell’s “Conflict of Visions”

June 1, 2009

On page 170, Sowell further distinguishes the views of individualism in the constrained and unconstrained visions.

In the constrained vision, individualism means leaving the individual free to choose among the systemically generated opportunities, rewards, and penalties deriving from other similarly free individuals without being subjected to articulated conclusions imposed by the power of organized entities such as government, labor unions, or cartels.  But in the unconstrained vision, individualism refers to (1) the right of ordinary individuals to participate in the articulated decisions of collective entities, and (2) of those with the requisite wisdom and virtue to have some exemption from either systemic or organized social constraints.

On his May 11 podcast Wolfe on Liberalism, Russell Roberts (Cafe Hayek contributor, GMU Econ Professor and producer of the EconTalk podcast), explained the danger with the unconstrained vision above is the knowledge problem.  No one person, or small subset of people, can possibly know what’s best for me or you and everyone else.

Those with the unconstrained vision believe the intellectual elite (and how its determined who is elite is up to them) can know this, while those with the constrained vision don’t.

Further, those with the unconstrained vision appreciate “systemically generated opportunities, rewards and penalties” while greatly benefiting from such every day.

As Sowell points out, language is one of those systems.  It develops and evolves without a centralized language-making body and while there are rules, those rules are written down after the fact.   Who can argue that language – the ability to communicate efficiently with one another – provides tremendous benefits to society?

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