We Know Nothing
"Pretense of knowledge." That's one of Hayek's key phrases.
It's one of my favorites.
What, exactly, do you really know? What does your neighbor really know? What does every person who wants to influence your life, from your friends to bureaurobots in DC, really know?
Almost always: nothing.
You have the problem of the sheer quantity of knowledge: Hayek. You have the problem of induction: Hume/Popper. You have the Black Swan problem: Taleb. You have the problem that truth is arguably impossible to articulate: Derrida. You have the problem that "truths" are often preconceived notions based on your cultural milieu: Foucault. You have the problem that people, from journalists to government officials, lie: Adam and Eve.
Any assertion based on knowledge is nothing more than arrogance disguised as authority. Any public policy emanating from that assertion is the guesswork of an arrogant ass.
It might be good public policy. It might be bad public policy. In all instances, it's guesswork, and we never know what will happen until after it has happened.
The Corona virus has highlighted all of this.
Me, I'm a big believer in social distancing. We know germs spread by human contact. It's logical. It makes sense.
But how much social distancing is necessary? Is it really six feet? Or was the original three feet enough? Or more like 27 feet? Is the person who once had it and is fully recovered safe to be around . . . or not? Is it best not to do any social distancing and let this thing run its course? Or maybe just best to socially isolate the most vulnerable so their sickness doesn't overwhelm the entire system? And what, exactly, are the costs of social distancing . . . to the economy, to society, to mental health?
And finally, perhaps most importantly, to what extent is my opinion that social distancing a good thing influenced by my natural introvert personality? Do I really even know my own heart and how it influences my head?
We are all ignorant. Although action is often required, like it is now, we should never forget that we never really know what action to take. If we embedded that little nugget of knowledge in our collective unconscious, we'd make huge strides against those who seek to make massive decisions for the entire country.