David Brooks: Mr. Bentham vs. Mr. Hume

David Brook’s latest column hits the nail on the head. Brooks describes two hypothetical individuals, Bentham and Hume, who could be chosen to run the government.

Bentham is intelligent, calculating, and hands-on. When asked about how to deal with climate change, he draws up grand plans and research institutes to figure out the best methods and technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

Hume is a little different. Hume admits he doesn’t know how technology will turn out over the next few decades. He knows he’s not God and can’t figure everything out by himself — so he advocates a system that would allow entrepreneurs and consumers to figure out the best way to tackle climate change.

The point is not about how or if we do anything with climate change, but how we foster innovation in society. If you take Bentham’s side, you think we can calculate our way to prosperity.

We Austrians here at YAL know that government planners and calculators don’t have enough information to do this — they suffer from Hayek’s Fatal Conceit. Free marketers have more humility. We admit and know that a central government simply doesn’t have all the information we need to run society — so we side with Hume.

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