Question Authority: The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Gary Wolf has an article in Wired this month:
In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit.
I can’t help but comment that local knowledge, driving people to make decisions that are right for them, is generally better than what those far away think ought to be done. Hayek tied this all very neatly to why central planning fails. Hayek also explains why central planning is the enemy of liberty. He didn’t get to why the central authorities get more and more strident as their pronouncements are mocked.
We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as “the rainbow of doom” is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we’ll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.
It is my belief that local knowledge tends to be more useful. That orders from a central authority must, by nature of being general, ignore the special circumstances which exist. That the beauty of liberty comes from accepting this, and allowing people to make their own choices and decisions.
People who learn from their mistakes and are experienced in making decisions will tend to make good ones. They may not be the decisions I would make, but that’s no reason for me to make their decisions for them.
Thus my scorn for the security-industrial complex, that amalgamation of government and a thousand “data mining” companies who apply one yardstick to us all, and through their worship of the instructions that flow from innacurate data processed by small minded algorithms, impugn on all our liberties.