Exchange with Mark Notturno on
Karl Popper and F.A. Hayek


Editorial Note

As a friend, editor, and exponent of Karl Popper, Mark Notturno, who explains who he is in the first e-mail below, seemed like a welcome and important person to hear from. Mentioning the differences between Popper and F.A. Hayek, or Mr. Soros and Hayek, I was not looking for a big argument and really didn't want to get into a debate. I merely commented on Hayek's development of Popper's ideas and expressed my uneasiness with Mr. Soros, who seems to be promoting, from what I hear, continued welfare statism in Eastern Europe, which is proving to be, as should have been obvious from the beginning, very, very terrible advice, the result of which may well be the restoration of Communist rule in Russia (as the collapse of the corrupt and gansterish pseudo-market economy is blamed on "capitalism"). Thus, I have no sympathy for that part of Mr. Soros's program, but I didn't intend to make a big issue out of it. However, the disparaging remarks about F.A. Hayek, whose theory, one of the great scientific achievements of the 20th century, Mark continually labels as "mysticism," were irritating, if not infurating, to me; so I began to get drawn into an argument. The debate got serious and increasingly testy, as these things will. Each installment also gets longer, which is characteristic of e-mail exchanges like this. By the end, the argument definitely reached the point of diminishing returns--quite a few statements getting repeated, with the sense that the responses were not responsive, but merely becoming tedious. "Incommensurable paradigms" is a phrase that comes to mind. "Hopelessly at cross purposes" is also applicable.

What certainly was happening was that each of us refused to argue on the other's own terms. Mark wanted a definite sort of answer to his big Question about Hayek and didn't see how the answers I was giving were responsive. The questions I was asking about what could be predicted to happen in the Closed Society were simply and completely ignored. Instead, Mark appealed to the formula that Popper had "discovered" the unscientific character of Marxism but had not predicted the evils of Stalinism. Since Einstein had discovered Relativity but then proceeded to predict many things (by which the theory could be tested), it is unclear, indeed mysterious, why Popper's theory should be without predictive value (especially when we have the whole of The Open Society and Its Enemies attacking the theorists of the Closed Society), except that it might make it look like something that, in the case of Hayek, Mark insisted was mysticism and historicism.

Finally, since Mark himself finally lost interest in the debate, I leave him with the final word (except for my comments here). What Popper's great ideas meant to Hayek, and to me, just doesn't seem to register with Dr. Notturno. The promise of common interests and common purpose in the early e-mails thus seems to decay into mutual irritation by the end. Since, as Virginia Postrel has said, personal and economic freedom are really a seamless whole, I cannot grieve too much over losing a possible collaborator or friend for whom economic freedom can still be suspended in the interest of what should now be thoroughly discredited attempts at social and economic "engineering." If only 1989 really had been the "end of history"! The reader can decide who is or isn't answering, or speaking to, the questions. Anyone else with a good understanding and appreciation of both Hayek and Popper is welcome to take up the argument.


More than one person has reported that the e-mail address for Mark Notturno previously on this page was not working. It has been removed.



Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998

Dear Dr. Ross,

First let me introduce myself. I am an American philosopher (Ph.D. 
Columbia University, 1982), the editor of Sir Karl Popper's last two 
books (The Myth of the Framework and Knowledge and the Body-Mind 
Problem (Routledge, 1994)), and the author of books (Objectivity, 
Rationality, and the Third Realm: Justification and the Grounds of 
Psychologism (Nijhoff, 1985) and Science and the Open Society 
(which should be published this year)) and articles regarding his 
work.  I am currently living in Vienna, from where I conduct workshops 
on Popper's philosophy for the Soros Foundations. I am assisted in 
this work by my wife, Dr. Kira Viktorova, a Russian philosopher who 
was one of the principal translators of Popper's The Open Society 
and Its Enemies into Russian. Kira and I have now conducted fifteen 
international workshops and three international summer schools in 
Budapest. And we have also given workshops, lectures, and seminars in 
twenty-five different cities of sixteen different countries in Central and 
Eastern Europe and Middle Asia. We are, in fact, leaving tomorrow for 
Almaty, Kazakhstan, where we will conduct a summer school on the 
philosophy of science, followed by a workshop on open society. 

I am writing to you because we recently discovered your web-page, 
and thought that what you are doing has a lot in common -- especially 
insofar as its philosophy is concerned -- with what we are doing. I 
dealt a bit with Fries trilemma, via Popper, in my book on 
psychologism (which focused upon Frege and Popper). And while I 
have not myself read Nelson myself, I do remember that Popper had a 
large collection of his works in his living room, and told me 
something of their importance. But quite aside from that, the 
attitude that you express toward contemporary academic philosophy on 
your webpage seems to coincide largely with our own. I have, insofar 
as this is concerned, pasted an announcement for the summer school 
that we held in Budapest last month, and another for a workshop that 
we will conduct there in November, below; and I have also attached 
the table of contents, introduction, and first chapter of my new book 
(a version of which was published in Common Knowledge last December, 
and a Russian translation of which was published in Voprosy Filosofii 
last November) so that you can judge for yourself [not shown, ed.]. 

... 
 
I will, in any event, look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
Mark Notturno


Dear Mark Notturno,

Yes, I am very happy to hear from you ....

It is interesting to hear of you doing things for the Soros Foundation. I hear of Mr. Soros's funding for good works like the Drug Policy Foundation, which I support also; but I also hear that he is not entirely persuaded of the value of free market economics (though, naturally, he made his money that way). This seems to have been a difference between Popper himself and F.A. Hayek, though Hayek realized that he could use Popper's own ideas to explain the nature of the free market. ....

Best wishes,
Kelley Ross



Date:   Mon, 24 Aug 1998

Dear Dr. Ross,

Thank you for your email.... 

My own sense about Soros is not so much that he is unpersuaded of
the value of free market economics, as that he is also aware of 
the possibility of manipulating the market, as well of the possible 
dangers involved when `market values' become the dominant values in a 
society. I think that this WAS a difference between Popper and
Hayek (at least the way in which Hayek is typically presented), and 
perhaps not merely a difference of degree (though it was certainly 
that as well). The difference in degree is that Popper seems to have 
been more open to experimentations with regulation. But his chief 
criticism of the socialists was that they had a mystical belief in 
socialism as a cure-all. And Hayek's talk about not disturbing the 
extended order sometimes sounds as if it borders on mysticism as 
well. 

Best wishes,
Mark Notturno


Dear Mark,

I wouldn't think of Hayek as a mystic for perceiving the value of spontaneous order, but he certainly is the father of recent discussion of that aspect of the "invisible hand" of the free market. The next step in the economic theory of government regulation is now "public choice theory," where the tendency of government regulation to promote the interests of politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups is explored....

Kelley



Date:  Tue, 25 Aug 1998

Dear Kelley,

Thanks for yours....

I wouldn't call Hayek a mystic for perceiving the VALUE of 
spontaneous order, but for his insistence that tampering with it must 
lead to distruction. Kira knows more about this than I do. But his 
argument, I think, is that we do not, and cannot, understand the 
structure and functions of the extended order well enough to know  
what might happen if we tamper with it. But if we do not and cannot 
know these things, then how can we know that tampering with it must 
lead to distruction? This is the element that I think borders on 
mysticism. I think that it is easy enough to see that there are 
problems associated with unrestrained capitalism. These, perhaps, 
have more to do with the invisible pocket than with the invisible 
hand, but they are problems nonetheless. We can say that the 
invisible pocket is a perversion of free market, but reality is also 
a perversion of free market. And just as the Russians used to talk 
about `really existing socialism', we have to face up to `really 
existing capitalism'. But I think that this can be done by 
principles, and that we need not resort to public choice theory, 
which might well have worse problems of its own. 

Best wishes,
Mark


Dear Mark,

I've been losing my enthusiasm lately for email debates, but you have made some arguments about Hayek, so I will try and respond briefly.

At 10:02 AM 8/25/98, you wrote:
>I wouldn't call Hayek a mystic for perceiving the VALUE of 
>spontaneous order, but for his insistence that tampering with it must 
>lead to distruction.

I shouldn't deny completely that Hayek was a mystic, since I have posted Neal Donner's essay, "Mysticism and the Idea of Freedom: A Libertarian View". However, I don't use quite the same language as Neal, and I think that you intended the use of "mystic" to be a criticism. So I will treat it as such.

I think that Hayek's view is of a piece with Popper's critique of historicism. History cannot be planned, conrolled, or predicted, as the Hegelians and Marxists thought, because there are radical uncertainties involved (as in where scientific theories come from). Attempting to plan, control, or predict the outcome of economic activity falls into the same category, while the very activity of planning & controlling will serve to preclude the outcomes that could not have been predicted.

>But his 
>argument, I think, is that we do not, and cannot, understand the 
>structure and functions of the extended order well enough to know  
>what might happen if we tamper with it.

We will know that we are substituting a kind of prediction that will interfere with novel structures emerging, which, again, is a kind of historicism.

>But if we do not and cannot 
>know these things, then how can we know that tampering with it must 
>lead to distruction? This is the element that I think borders on 
>mysticism.

No. It borders on the proper use of history, which is to study previous attempts at control and compare the consequences with the predictions, as in good Popperian science. We then can ask why the predictions failed to come true. This has been done.

>I think that it is easy enough to see that there are 
>problems associated with unrestrained capitalism.

I think there is less a problem than you might think, since the history of "unrestrained capitalism" has largely been written by its enemies, which is why Hayek has an essay, "Capitalism and the Historians."

>These, perhaps, 
>have more to do with the invisible pocket than with the invisible 
>hand, but they are problems nonetheless.

Since your "invisible pocket" reference it unexplained, I will interpret it to mean the political pockets into which the fruits of corruption are diverted. This is not a problem of the free market, but an immemorial one of politics.

>We can say that the 
>invisible pocket is a perversion of free market, but reality is also 
>a perversion of free market. And just as the Russians used to talk 
>about `really existing socialism', we have to face up to `really 
>existing capitalism'.

Again, we have quite a bit of "really existing capitalism" to study. You seem to write about Hayek as if he is speaking of some kind of utopianism, against which all existing capitalism is a "perversion." But capitalism has operated in different ways at different times, with different degrees of government intervention and different degrees of the protection of private property and contract. We don't need any utopianism to compare those different regimes--in fact, we could have a powerful minimal study just by comparing Hong Kong with its colonial oppressor, Great Britain.

>But I think that this can be done by 
>principles, and that we need not resort to public choice theory, 
>which might well have worse problems of its own. 

All that public choice theory does is show that it is not a simple "either/or" proposition: either the evils of "unrestrained" capitalism or the wisdom of regulatory intervention. Whatever the evils of the free market, it has now been made more obvious by public choice economics (though your aversion to it is perpelxing) that regulatory intervention is no disintereted correction of such evils. Thus, even if the traditional evils of capitalism are stipulated, the regulation of the market may actually not improve the outcome at all, but only shift the cost and the burden to where they can less easily be born, where they may be less obvious (see Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson), and where remedy may be more difficult to obtain. In a politicized system, it is ALWAYS harder to correct outcomes that shift costs to those with less political power--where, by the nature of the thing, they WILL be shifted.

One of your comments about Mr. Soros was interesting: that he was in a position to know how market outcomes can be manipulated. At the same time, he is correspondingly less in a position to see how political outcomes can be manipulated. Those who have bothered to look at both are economists like Hayek, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, James Buchanan, etc. Political intervention does not come off well. I think the best short book about this kind of thing is Thomas Sowell's classic, Knowledge and Decisions, a properly Hayekian title, which has recently been reissued.

With their principles, the matter indeed "can be done by principles," though I gather they are not quite the principles that you have in mind.....

Kelley



Date:  Wed, 26 Aug 1998

Dear Kelley,

Thanks for your stimulating reply. I agree that history cannot be 
planned, controlled, or predicted in the way that the Hegelians and 
Marxists thought. But I'm not so clear that all attempts to plan, 
control, and predict necessarily fall into the same category; and I
think that Hayek's view of the extended order MAY actually be more of 
a piece with historicism than with Popper's critique of it. This, 
incidentally, has nothing to do with utopianism, or with viewing 
Hayek as a utopianist. I think, on the contrary, that it is a form of 
MYSTICISM to be certain about social events -- that intervention MUST 
lead to destruction -- that lie in the future. I am not sure whether 
this is actually Hayek's view. But it certainly sounds at times as if it is, 
and it seems to me no different in this regard from Marx's view that 
capitalism necessarily leads to revolution. I do not, in any event, 
know how Hayek or anyone else could possibly know this in advance. 
You say in response that `We will know that we are substituting a 
kind of prediction that will interfere with novel structures 
emerging, which, again, is a kind of historicism'. There are several 
issues here. Yes, we are appealing to a theory, and to a kind of 
prediction, and this may interfere with novel structures emerging. 
But Hayek seems to forget that our intervention is ITSELF a novel 
structure that is emerging. If we cannot, on his view, know how the 
extended order works, then we also cannot know that our intervention 
is not a part of it. So why should we interfere with it? I do not, in 
any event, see why intervention would necessarily be historicism. 
Historicism is the idea that there are laws of history, that they 
work with necessity, and that science can accurately predict the 
future with certainty once it discovers what these laws are. This is 
the problem that Popper had with Marxists: they were SO certain in 
advance that their interference would work that they completely 
forgot to think about how it might go wrong. Hence their global, 
utopianist approach. But intervention need not proceed in such a 
framework. My own view is that there will always be problems, that we 
will always try to solve them through interventions, and that these 
interventions will almost always involve trade-offs. The question is 
not intervention or no intervention, but how much and what kind. The 
question is whether or not a particular intervention can work to 
solve a particular problem that we want to solve. This, of course, 
brings us immediately into politics, since `we' refers to different 
people who may or may not see the same things as problematic. But I 
cannot see how -- unless we assume that all intervention is 
necessarily destructive -- we can know in advance that intervention 
will never work. I would not want to say or suggest that political 
intervention has a sterling record. It does not. But there are some 
political interventions -- such as child labor laws -- that few 
people today seriously question are improvements. I agree, insofar as 
this is concerned, that the proper use of history is to learn from 
our mistakes. But it would be a form of inductivism to infer that 
since intervention has failed in the past it must also fail in the 
future. What we have learned, I would think, is that unrestrained 
capitalism very easily leads to political oppression, but that we 
have to be very careful when we intervene, since intervention can 
easily lead to oppression as well. 
 
Otherwise, you say that there may be less of a problem than I think 
with unrestrained capitalism. Perhaps. I certainly agree that the history
of `unrestrained capitalism' has largely been written by its enemies.
It's also clear that `Capitalism and the Historians' was written by 
one of its friends. But I'm not sure what we can infer from this.

You interpret my reference to the invisible pocket correctly, though I 
would understand `political' here in a very broad sense. I would 
agree that the invisible pocket is not a problem of the free market, 
but one of politics -- or better, of the corruption of the people who 
use the market. A sociologist from Croatia that I know once told me, 
in all seriousness, that `Capitalism means you scratch my back and 
I'll scratch yours'. I tried to explain to him that real capitalists 
sometimes get ten to twenty years for that sort of thing. My point, 
however, remains the same: it is a problem nonetheless, and a problem 
whose solution may require some forms of intervention, which may, no 
doubt, entail problems of their own. I am, insofar as this is 
concerned, certainly not opposed to public choice theory if ALL that 
it does is to show that it is not a simple either/or between the 
evils of unrestrained capitalism and the wisdom of regulatory 
intervention -- as opposed, say, to giving a blanket argument against 
intervention. Of course regulatory intervention is not disinterested, 
or always wise. Of course it does not always work. And of course it 
may only shift the costs and burdens to where they are less obvious 
and can less easily be born. But I don't think that this means that 
it is or must be always destructive. 
 
With regard to Soros, I did not mean to suggest either that political 
outcomes cannot be manipulated, or that Soros is not in a position to 
recognize that, and how, they can be manipulated. My comment was
in response to your remark that Soros `is not entirely persuaded of 
the value of free market economics'. My point was only that he is 
both persuaded of the VALUE of the free market and simultaneously 
aware of its DANGERS. This may, however, make him somewhat of a 
pariah for many western economists, who today seem to be far more  
aware of the value of free market than they are of its dangers. 

....

Best wishes,
Mark


Dear Mark,

At 11:22 AM 8/26/98, you wrote:
>Thanks for your stimulating reply.

Which is why I have often decided to let someone have the last word, rather than have to write yet another answer! And they get longer and longer. But I'll go for it again.

>I agree that history cannot be 
>planned, controlled, or predicted in the way that the Hegelians and 
>Marxists thought. But I'm not so clear that all attempts to plan, 
>control, and predict necessarily fall into the same category; and I
>think that Hayek's view of the extended order MAY actually be more of 
>a piece with historicism than with Popper's critique of it.

Everyone, indeed, tries to plan, control, and predict their own lives, businesses, etc. The trick is, that in an Open Society, and with the free market, they cannot legally use force to try and make their plans happen, should others disagree.

I will insist on my claim that Hayek has simply extended Popper's critique of historicism and his theory of the Open Society.

>This, 
>incidentally, has nothing to do with utopianism, or with viewing 
>Hayek as a utopianist. I think, on the contrary, that it is a form of 
>MYSTICISM to be certain about social events -- that intervention MUST 
>lead to destruction -- that lie in the future. I am not sure whether 
>this is actually Hayek's view. But it certainly sounds at times as if
>it is, and it seems to me no different in this regard from Marx's view
>that capitalism necessarily leads to revolution.

By the same token Popper's own critique of historicism would be a form of mysticism, or a form of historicism, since Popper is CERTAIN that a "science of history" will fail. Why is he so certain? That is the question, and a good once, since Popper does not otherwise believe in the certainty of science itself.

Popper is certain because of the radical unpredictability of new theories, the fruits of the imagination, proposed by multiple individual scientists. To make predictions about the future of science, one would already need to have possession of the principles upon which the future of science would be founded (and to know what unknown individuals can conjure from their imaginations). But that is to beg the question, to assume what can be stipulated NOT to be in evidence.

Hayek's principle is similar. Economic growth is the consequence of new invention, of goods, services, and techniques, that is the fruit of the imagination of countless individual entrepreneurs.

As Popper is certain that history cannot be predicted, because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come up with, Hayek can be certain that economic developments cannot be predicted, because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come up with.

To allow for the real growth of science, Popper then requires an Open Society. In the same way, to allow for the real growth of wealth, Hayek then requires the economic equivalent of the Open Society, which is the Free Market.

With respect to science, Popper would say "that intervention MUST lead to destruction" in the sense that the genuine growth of knowledge would be precluded, with substitutions like Lysenko-ism. With respect of economics, Hayek would say "that intervention MUST lead to destruction" in the sense that economic growth would be slowed or stiffled, unemployment driven up, and the creation of wealth suppressed. This effect is all too obvious, for instance, in Western European economies, where net private sector job creation in places like France, since the 70's, has been about ZERO, and where unemployment has now been above 10% for the better part of a decade. People are beginning to demonstrate and riot, in France and Germany, because of long term unemployment, even after the new socialist government in France promised to create make-work jobs--which end up being little better than unemployment relief without the make-work.

>I do not, in any event, 
>know how Hayek or anyone else could possibly know this in advance.

As Popper knows in advance that a Closed Society will crush the development of scientific knowledge under political shibboleths--an effect we actually see in Western universities, where "political correctness" shuts off or stigmatizes research in certain areas, as in male/female sexual differences or, even more so, racial differences--not to mention literature departments, which are now the last refuge of Stalinism, and all literature is analyzed as evidence of race, sex, and class oppression.

>You say in response that `We will know that we are substituting a 
>kind of prediction that will interfere with novel structures 
>emerging, which, again, is a kind of historicism'. There are several 
>issues here. Yes, we are appealing to a theory, and to a kind of 
>prediction, and this may interfere with novel structures emerging. 
>But Hayek seems to forget that our intervention is ITSELF a novel 
>structure that is emerging.

Ah, but you could say the same about Stalinism. It WAS "a novel structure," so why not see what happens? I don't think Popper would have any patience with that. We KNOW what will happen, because Stalinism violates the very principles of an Open Society. Since it also violates the principles of a Free Market, we could also predict, as von Mises and Hayek did, its economic failures also.

Popper's critique of historicism, and the equivalent theory by Hayek, are not in the same logically class as other scientific theories. They can, indeed, in principle be falsified, which means that evidence is relevant to their evaluation, but they are also meta-theories, which are about the conditions for the creation of scientific knowledge, or of wealth, itself. And what both have in common is the recognition of our (Socratic) ignorance and the (Kantian) limitations of our knowledge--that an aspect of events cannot be predicted or controlled. Thus, it is hardly a kind of mysticism, but rather a kind of Kantian Critique, which is what Popper says himself (as he also answered in an interview when asked if the principle of falsification was itself falsifiable).

It is particularly paradoxical to accuse Hayek of the same kind of historical prophecy-making and mysticism as Hegel and Marx when his basic point is about our ignorance, that we CANNOT know what will happen in the future. However, both Popper and Hayek then describe the conditions of OPENness that allow the novelties of the future to emerge, whether it is a matter of new knowledge (Popper) or a matter of the ecoomic innovations that allow for the growth of wealth (Hayek).

>If we cannot, on his view, know how the 
>extended order works, then we also cannot know that our intervention 
>is not a part of it.  So why should we interfere with it?

Again, the same criticism could be applied to Popper, who will rule out, a priori, "interventions" like the Spanish Inquisition or Stalin's Show Trials. The proper kind of "intervention" economically is the entrepreneurial one of offering new goods, services, or techniques to the market. But you are not talking about that. You are talking about welfare state political interventions into economic outcomes. This presupposes knowledge of what those outcomes ought to be, which is no more possible than knowledge of what scientific or historical outcomes ought to be.

>I do not, in 
>any event, see why intervention would necessarily be historicism. 
>Historicism is the idea that there are laws of history, that they 
>work with necessity, and that science can accurately predict the 
>future with certainty once it discovers what these laws are. This is 
>the problem that Popper had with Marxists: they were SO certain in 
>advance that their interference would work that they completely 
>forgot to think about how it might go wrong. Hence their global, 
>utopianist approach.

I've already covered this above.

>But intervention need not proceed in such a 
>framework. My own view is that there will always be problems, that we 
>will always try to solve them through interventions, and that these 
>interventions will almost always involve trade-offs.

But if the trade-offs in science are between knowledge and ignorance, and in economics between wealth and poverty, then we are starting from mistaken premises.

>The question is 
>not intervention or no intervention, but how much and what kind.

No. If the intervention is TELEOCRATIC (to use Michael Oakeshott's term, or was it Isaiah Berlin's?), then it is mistaken, since the presupposition is that the END is knowable. If the intervention is NOMOCRATIC, to enforce the rights of person, property, and contract, then these are the principles of an economic Open Society. But enforcing such laws is usually not thought of as "intervention" in the sense we are discussing. I don't think you are an anarchist--to whom it would be an "intervention."

>The 
>question is whether or not a particular intervention can work to 
>solve a particular problem that we want to solve.

If the intervention is fundamentally misconceived, that is one problem. But the other issue is to examine the actual results. This is an empirical matter, as Thomas Sowell likes to emphasize.

>This, of course, 
>brings us immediately into politics, since `we' refers to different 
>people who may or may not see the same things as problematic. But I 
>cannot see how -- unless we assume that all intervention is 
>necessarily destructive -- we can know in advance that intervention 
>will never work.

What we can know in advance, thanks to recent research (Public Choice, again), is how political interventions respond to political dynamics, which have nothing to do with wealth creation but with wealth redistribution and political influence. This is necessarily a sterile process, since taking wealth by force from those who honestly created it and giving it to others who did not create it is fundamentally a corrupt process. (This is why one proposal for the Bill of Rights, actually included in various State and even Indian Nation Constitutions, was that no public payment could be made to anyone except for services rendered.) As such "interventions" increase in magnitude, the corruption increases in equal measure, with the creation of large parasite classes. It was recently estimated that more people in Italy live at public expense than actually contribute to the economy--though I suspect that this is actually false, since an uncertainly large part of the Italian economy is "off the books" (as in Spain too). It might be close to more accurate about France, where I think there is less of an underground economy.

>I would not want to say or suggest that political 
>intervention has a sterling record. It does not.

And there are now well understood reasons for that.

>But there are some 
>political interventions -- such as child labor laws -- that few 
>people today seriously question are improvements.

Then you must not be familiar with a good part of free market literature. A recent book is Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution by Clark Nardinelli (Indiana University Press, 1990). I have a brief discussion at http://www.friesian.com/notes/note-h.htm#note-2. The first child labor laws in England were about the working conditions of apprentices, whose circumstances were an artifact of unpaid, virtual slave labor in the mediaeval guild system, a system of legal monopoly and Closed markets if there ever was one. Blaming capitalism for the evils of child labor turns out to make about as much sense as blaming England for the existence of slavery--which, I notice, is often done, even though England created the whole anti-slavery movement and brought it to fulfillment. But using child labor to belabor capitalism is a pretty standard anti-capitalist cliche. You really should know better.

>I agree, insofar as 
>this is concerned, that the proper use of history is to learn from 
>our mistakes. But it would be a form of inductivism to infer that 
>since intervention has failed in the past it must also fail in the 
>future.

It is not inductivism a) when we have well confirmed theories that explain why failure occurs, and b) when political interventions violate the meta-principles of the Open Society (in its economic aspect) itself.

>What we have learned, I would think, is that unrestrained 
>capitalism very easily leads to political oppression, but that we 
>have to be very careful when we intervene, since intervention can 
>easily lead to oppression as well.

"Unrestrained capitalism" cannot lead to "political oppression" when the principles of capitalism are themselves the principles of justice, in terms of which political oppression is DEFINED in the first place. If political interventions into economics are the moral and practical equivalent of THEFT, then they are intrinsically injustices and oppressions.

>Otherwise, you say that there may be less of a problem than I think 
>with unrestrained capitalism. Perhaps. I certainly agree that the history
>of `unrestrained capitalism' has largely been written by its enemies.
>It's also clear that `Capitalism and the Historians' was written by 
>one of its friends. But I'm not sure what we can infer from this.

This is simply dismissive and trivializing of the recent work of free market economists. It is not that Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, Becker, Buchanan, etc. are "friendly" to capitalism. It is that they are at the forefront of economic science in theory, research, and prediction. They are "friendly," then, for good reasons. Since, from what I know, at least Friedman and Sowell started out as interventionists, even Marxists, they were persuaded by something to change their minds. And when von Mises and Hayek all but alone predicted early and often the failure of command economies, which economies then DID fail (as confessed, at the time, even by some socialists), this must count as one of the greatest scientific predictions of the 20th century and dignify their thought, in a Popperian sense, more than that of any others. It would then seem incumbent upon one to become familiar with the principles upon which the predictions were made.

>You interpret my reference to the invisible pocket correctly, though I 
>would understand `political' here in a very broad sense. I would 
>agree that the invisible pocket is not a problem of the free market, 
>but one of politics -- or better, of the corruption of the people who 
>use the market.

When the people who use the market (which is everyone) corrupt politics to steal and coerce, then the "intervention" is properly against the corrupt politics, the "government failure," not against the market. That is not a criticism of capitalism, since theft-by-politics has always been a feature of government, ever since the first bribe was paid to the first Egyptian scribe.

>A sociologist from Croatia that I know once told me, 
>in all seriousness, that `Capitalism means you scratch my back and 
>I'll scratch yours'. I tried to explain to him that real capitalists 
>sometimes get ten to twenty years for that sort of thing. My point, 
>however, remains the same: it is a problem nonetheless, and a problem 
>whose solution may require some forms of intervention, which may, no 
>doubt, entail problems of their own. I am, insofar as this is 
>concerned, certainly not opposed to public choice theory if ALL that 
>it does is to show that it is not a simple either/or between the 
>evils of unrestrained capitalism and the wisdom of regulatory 
>intervention -- as opposed, say, to giving a blanket argument against 
>intervention.

Unfortunately, it looks like public choice ecomonics is not about the limited purposes that you may allow for it. If regulatory intervention is inherently a corrupt process, then this will not serve what are evidently your purposes.

>Of course regulatory intervention is not disinterested, 
>or always wise.

The point may be that it is NEVER disinterested, if it is to serve political purposes, since all political purposes serve political interests, which are, indeed, interests. Liberty and justice are interests of a different sort, since their enforcement does not intrinsically rebound to the immediate economic benefit of the enforcer or their partisans.

>Of course it does not always work. And of course it 
>may only shift the costs and burdens to where they are less obvious 
>and can less easily be born. But I don't think that this means that 
>it is or must be always destructive.

It does if we understand why, both in terms of well confirmed economic theory and in terms of the Popperian meta-theory of an Open Society.

>With regard to Soros, I did not mean to suggest either that political 
>outcomes cannot be manipulated, or that Soros is not in a position to 
>recognize that, and how, they can be manipulated. My comment was
>in response to your remark that Soros `is not entirely persuaded of 
>the value of free market economics'. My point was only that he is 
>both persuaded of the VALUE of the free market and simultaneously 
>aware of its DANGERS. This may, however, make him somewhat of a 
>pariah for many western economists, who today seem to be far more  
>aware of the value of free market than they are of its dangers.

Ah. Perhaps they have debunked the "dangers," and you and Mr. Soros are not aware of the research. You don't sound any too "friendly" to public choice economics, but I haven't heard any specifics about the ground of your distrust, except that you like the old anti-capitalist critiques. If Mr. Soros is actually a "pariah," a pretty strong word, with "many western economists," this might seem to be a suspicious and suggestive circumstance.

Next round....

Kelley



Date:  Thu, 27 Aug 1998

Dear Kelley, 

Thanks for yours. There's a lot in your reply that I agree with, and 
a lot that I don't (especially in what you say about Popper). But we 
can consider these point by point later. I'd like to keep this one 
short so that we can focus on the central point.  

You say that Hayek can be certain that economic developments cannot 
be predicted, because there is literally no telling what someone is 
going to come up with. I agree. But if economic developments cannot 
be predicted because there is literally no telling what someone is 
going to come up with, then how can he then be certain that 
intervention must lead to destruction and that someone can't come up 
with regulatory interventions that work? I do not think that he 
should be certain, for the simple reason that I think that he is 
right when he says that economic developments cannot be predicted 
because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come 
up with. I think there is an inconsistency here. His claim to know 
that intervention must lead to destruction is my fundamental reason 
for saying that Hayek may be an historicist. And I really don't see 
how or that you have answered it. You say that Hayek would say that 
intervention must lead to destruction in the sense that economic 
growth would be slowed or stiffled, unemployment driven up, and the 
creation of wealth suppressed -- and you point to countries in which 
it apparently has. But the fact that it has does not mean that it 
must. So how, again, does he know that it must? And how is this 
knowledge, which is apparently knowledge about economic developments 
in the future, consistent with the claim that economic developments 
cannot be predicted because there is literally no telling what 
someone may come up with?  

You should be able to answer in a paragraph.

Best wishes,

Mark 


Dear Mark,

At 10:55 PM 8/27/98, you wrote:
>You say that Hayek can be certain that economic developments cannot 
>be predicted, because there is literally no telling what someone is 
>going to come up with. I agree. But if economic developments cannot 
>be predicted because there is literally no telling what someone is 
>going to come up with, then how can he then be certain that 
>intervention must lead to destruction and that someone can't come up 
>with regulatory interventions that work?

I did answer this, by saying that such interventions would fail economically in the same way and for the same reasons that authoritarian interventions in science would "lead to destruction" in the development of scientific knowledge. That would happen in science because authoritarian interventions would violate the conditiones sine qua non of the growth of scientific knowledge, which are the enabling rules of the Open Society. Political economic interventions violate the enabling rules of the Free Market. This is a responsive and sufficient answer, though it is reasonable to call for elaboration.

Now, it is just possible that the Enlightened Despot may make a genuine contribution to science. By the same token, it is just possible that the Economic Planner may start a productive enterprise or force some private business to become more productive. However, no sensible person is going to endorse a political system with Despots just on the outside possibility that one of them might make a genuine contribution to science. Most Despots will threaten Kant or exile Sakharov. And, in the absense of Despots, the person who might have been an Enlightened Despot can STILL make the contribution to science. Similarly, if the Economic Planner has a good economic idea, he can round up investors to put it into practice. But if it is a bad idea, either investors won't go for it, or it will fail in bankruptcy.

There are, indeed, other considerations than the inablity to predict economic innovation. Political interventions in economics are not subject to the discipline of the market. Since they do not have to break even or show a profit as enterprises, the only criterion of their success or failure is a political criterion. Since disastrously corrupt and uneconomic state actions can be politically successful, society becomes increasingly burdened with parasitic expenses. Worse, a politically successful program need only be supported by a small constituency, as long as the effect on the majority is diffuse (a dime from each voter buys a palace for the lobbyist or the politician). These are essential insights of Public Choice economics, but they are of a piece with Hayek's principles, since these interventions free of economic accountability are precisely those that violate the enabling rules of the Free Market, which impose the economic discipline. Political interventions instead work by Force, and so they simply continue the immemorial political principle of those in power looting those who are productive--on the principle that the powerful are wiser. The Hayekian rejection of historicism is of the form that they CANNOT be wiser, and so they are in no position to justify their use of force and their freedom from the disicpline of the market.

Thus, to your objection that political interventions could be economic successful, which is just possible, the short answer is, "How do you tell?" When politicians doctor the books to deceive the voters, it becomes very hard to root out the truth.

>I do not think that he 
>should be certain, for the simple reason that I think that he is 
>right when he says that economic developments cannot be predicted 
>because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come 
>up with. I think there is an inconsistency here. His claim to know 
>that intervention must lead to destruction is my fundamental reason 
>for saying that Hayek may be an historicist.

No inconsistency, or you would have to say of Popper that he was a historicist for predicting that Stalinism would be destructive of good science. I addressed this previously.

>And I really don't see 
>how or that you have answered it.

I just have all over again, but you have not responded why Popper is not a historicist for his certainty that Stalinism would be destructive of good science.

>You say that Hayek would say that 
>intervention must lead to destruction in the sense that economic 
>growth would be slowed or stiffled, unemployment driven up, and the 
>creation of wealth suppressed -- and you point to countries in which 
>it apparently has. But the fact that it has does not mean that it 
>must.

Of course not, in ordinary science. But, as with Popper's principles for the Open Society, we are dealing with meta-principles--though this does not prevent us from understanding how things go wrong. When scientists produce the nonsense that Stalin wants because they would be shot otherwise, this dynamic is not hard to understand. When politicians can waste billions of dollars on politically popular but disastrously diseconomic give-aways, because they are not subject to the discipline of the market, this is also not hard to understand.

>So how, again, does he know that it must? And how is this 
>knowledge, which is apparently knowledge about economic developments 
>in the future, consistent with the claim that economic developments 
>cannot be predicted because there is literally no telling what 
>someone may come up with?

Perhaps what was missing for you was the point that in political interventions it is possible to conceal their economic failure. But I really shouldn't have needed to say that. The enabling rules for the economically Open Society, which are the rules of the Free Market, mean that uneconomic activities go bankrupt and are removed from the field, returning their capital to productive investment, or get voluntarily supported by contributors who see some non-economic value in the activities. But when politicians can use the power of the state for what they SAY are economic goods, they are not subject to the same discipline.

Another aspect of this, if the politicians decide that their interventions are valuable even if uneconomic in market terms, because market value is not "true" value, is von Mises's argument about the impossibility of economic calculation in socialism. This is of a piece, naturally, with Hayek's arguments about unpredictablity. Since prices reflect supply and demand, demand reflects what people want to buy, and what people want to buy reflects the desires and habits of absolutely everyone, which are too dispersed to know in any other way, suppressing the price system and the market means suppressing the best way of knowing what people want. Political interventions thus begin to suppress wealth, which means all the things that people really want to possess. Political interventions respond to what the politically influencial want, including all the interest groups who want to quietly rake off their cut, to which they are entitled because everyone else is getting their cut--which returns us to Public Choice economics again. The diseconomies of parasitic rent-seeking (http://www.friesian.com/rent.htm), by draining off increasing amounts of capital, begin to suppress, even in an otherwise free economy, the investment and economic growth that lead to the genuine growth of wealth.

Kelley



Date:  Sat, 29 Aug 1998

Dear Kelley,

>I did answer this, by saying that such interventions would fail
>economically in the same way and for the same reasons that
>authoritarian interventions in science would "lead to
>destruction" in the development of scientific knowledge.

Not quite. The above says that such interventions would fail 
economically in the same way and for the same reasons that 
authoritarian interventions in science would "lead to destruction" in 
the development of scientific knowledge. But it does not answer my 
question, which was `If economic developments cannot be predicted 
because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come 
up with, then how can Hayek be certain that intervention must lead to 
destruction and that someone can't come up with regulatory 
interventions that work?' To say `in the same way and for the same 
reasons' does not explain, it presupposes that an explanation is not 
necessary. To say `no inconsistency, or you would have to say of 
Popper...' (as you do below) is not to show that there is no 
inconsistency. And to say `authoritarian interventions' is to beg the 
very point at issue when it comes to open society, i.e., whether or 
not all interventions are or must be authoritarian, let alone 
destructive. Popper, in any event, did NOT think that 
intervention in science must lead to destruction, as you say in your 
last letter (though here you add `authoritarian', which changes 
things, but begs the question). On the contrary, his call for 
falsifiability was itself an ATTEMPT at intervention. And he 
advocated piecemeal engineering, both in economics and in politics. 
The reason why he could do this without being an historicist is that 
he did not believe that the future was determined by laws of history. 

You say, however, that `it is just possible that the Economic Planner 
may start a productive enterprise or force some private business to 
become more productive'. I conclude from this that you agree that 
intervention does not necessarily lead to destruction, and that Hayek 
should not have been so certain that it does. 

>However, no sensible person is going 
>to endorse a political system with Despots just on the outside
>possibility that one of them might make a genuine contribution
>to science.  

Of course not. But I wasn't talking about this. You were. I was 
saying that Hayek borders on mysticism and historicism. Mysticism, 
because of his certainty about what will happen if we intervene, 
coupled with his claim that reasoning about it is beyond our powers. 
Historicism, because `Intervention must lead to destruction' sounds
like a (supposed) law of history. I think that one can say these things 
without embracing the communist party. And I think that one can talk 
about economic, political, and scientific interventions without 
endorsing a system with scientific, economic, or political despots. I 
would have thought that this is what democracy is all about. 

You say that `the Hayekian rejection of historicism is of the form
that they CANNOT be wiser, and so they are in no position to justify 
their use of force and their freedom from the disicpline of the
market'.  I assume you mean `cannot be wiser than Hayek', who, of
course, IS supposed to be wiser insofar as he knows a priori that
intervention must lead to destruction. But you have already admitted
that intervention need not lead to destruction (albeit in the course
of claiming to have explained how it must). So I conclude that an 
economic planner CAN be wiser, contra Hayek -- though I would not 
think that one necessarily is, or that this puts him in any position 
to justify anything. I would also suggest that we would do better to 
consider the specific interventions that are being proposed, and the 
problems that they are intended to solve, than to try to rule out 
interventions a priori (which we cannot, in any event, do).

>Thus, to your objection that political interventions could be
>economic successful, which is just possible, the short answer is,
>"How do you tell?"  When politicians doctor the books to deceive
>the voters, it becomes very
>hard to root out the truth.

The `which is just possible' should be the end of the story. `Is just 
possible', I can hear Popper saying it, `means is possible'. But may 
I suggest, without being accused of trivializing all the fine work 
that has been done in economics, that `How do you tell?' cuts both 
ways? 
 
>No inconsistency, or you would have to say of Popper that he was a
>historicist for predicting that Stalinism would be destructive of 
>good science. 

One can, first of all, make predictions without being an historicist 
-- simply by regarding those predictions as `guesses' (as opposed to 
inevitable consequences derived from the infallible laws of history).
But Popper, quite aside from this, did not PREDICT that Stalin would 
be destructive of good science. He DISCOVERED it.

I am sending with this another chapter from my book, in which I quote 
from Popper's correspondence with Carnap. I think it will show that 
Popper's attitude toward intervention was quite different from what 
you suppose. [the chapter is not included here, since Popper's
attitude was not different from what I supposed and was
not relevant to the discussion about Popper's theory of the
Open Society, ed.]

Best wishes,
Mark


Dear Mark,

At 09:31 AM 8/29/98, you wrote:
>The above says that such interventions would fail 
>economically in the same way and for the same reasons that 
>authoritarian interventions in science would "lead to destruction" in 
>the development of scientific knowledge. But it does not answer my 
>question, which was `If economic developments cannot be predicted 
>because there is literally no telling what someone is going to come 
>up with, then how can Hayek be certain that intervention must lead to 
>destruction and that someone can't come up with regulatory 
>interventions that work?'  To say `in the same way and for the same 
>reasons' does not explain, it presupposes that an explanation is not 
>necessary.

It answers the question. An explanation is something else.

>To say `no inconsistency, or you would have to say of 
>Popper...' (as you do below) is not to show that there is no 
>inconsistency.

If shows an inconsistency if Poppers makes similar claims. If YOU answer the question, "Why does the Closed Society lead to the 'destruction' of scientific knowledge," then you have the analogous answer to the economic question. It is not up to me to explain everything about economics when I argue for the parallelism between Popper and Hayek and use Popper's ideas by analogy.

>And to say `authoritarian interventions' is to beg the 
>very point at issue when it comes to open society, i.e., whether or 
>not all interventions are or must be authoritarian, let alone 
>destructive.

"Authoritarian interventions" simply mean those that abridge freedom, whether the freedom to speak, think, or write, or the freedom to exchange property by mutual agreement (this includes taxes, which are not voluntary, which are used for some state project). You can call it something besides "authoritarian" if you want to, but the issue here is whether free economic exchange can be restricted or, in some or many instances, usefully replaced by state action. Perhaps you don't want to think of state economic action as "authoritarian," perhaps preferring some warm and fuzzy euphemism, but if it abridges or replaces freedom of exhange, that is the issue.

>Popper, in any event, did NOT think that 
>intervention in science must lead to destruction, as you say in your 
>last letter (though here you add `authoritarian', which changes 
>things, but begs the question). On the contrary, his call for 
>falsifiability was itself an ATTEMPT at intervention.

I do not think this is correct. If Stalinist science is not "intervention," "destruction," and "authoritarian," I don't know what is. Nor is falsification an "intervention." Falsification is simply a normative principle of logic, which is both descriptive of the thinking in the history of science (e.g. Galileo falsifies Ptolemaic geocentrism) and prescriptive of logical scientific reasoning. It is a kind of "intervention" to point out a logical error in someone's reasoning, but this is part of the conditiones sine qua non for rationality, not abridgements of freedom of thought or an attempt to politically direct scientific research in some certain direction (which would be the true intervention). Logical consistency is a necessary condition for truth, which is the purpose of science.

>And he 
>advocated piecemeal engineering, both in economics and in politics.

I would be very astonished if Popper advocated the "piecemeal engineering" of logic itself. Of course, it is very common to make claims like that today: Logic itself is widely regarded as white, male, Eurocentric, Capitalist oppression, which means that we must be irrational and incoherent to be free and unoppressed.

>The reason why he could do this without being an historicist is that 
>he did not believe that the future was determined by laws of history.

He was not a historicist because he thought it was impossible to predict the fruits of genuine scientific research and discovery. But you avoid the issue why Popper would regard it as IMPOSSIBLE to have genuine scientific discovery if the conditiones sine qua non of rationality could be ignored, attacked, or suppressed, as they have have been and are.

>You say, however, that `it is just possible that the Economic Planner 
>may start a productive enterprise or force some private business to 
>become more productive'. I conclude from this that you agree that 
>intervention does not necessarily lead to destruction, and that Hayek 
>should not have been so certain that it does. 

I allow the logical possibility that a political planner could have a good economic idea. This is not to conceed your point, since the likelihood of good economic ideas occurring to political planners becomes vanishingly small given the dynamic of politics, since they labor under no economic restrictions in implementing their ideas, good or bad, or in continuing their projects, whoever uneconomic they may be.

>>However, no sensible person is going to endorse a political
>>system with Despots just on the outside possibility that one
>>of them might make a genuine contribution to science.  
>
>Of course not. But I wasn't talking about this. You were.

I was describing the analogy of Popper's Open Society and Hayek's Free Market. You are ignoring the analogy. If the disagreement is about Popper's Open Society, which you may perhaps regard as an "intervention," then the discussion needs to be about that, since we are certainly going to get nowhere with Hayek otherwise.

>I was 
>saying that Hayek borders on mysticism and historicism. Mysticism, 
>because of his certainty about what will happen if we intervene, 
>coupled with his claim that reasoning about it is beyond our powers.

And I have been saying that Hayek is doing nothing different than Popper. "Reasoning about it is beyond our powers," because the subject matter cannot be predicted, which is Popper's argument against historicism. Nor is Hayek's "certainty" any different than Popper's when it comes to the issue of what would happen is the absence of the conditiones sine qua non of the Open Society and of rationality.

The claim is that, if the charge of "mysticism" applies to Hayek, it must also be applied to Popper. Since the disagreement then may be about Popper, it is not going to help if you simply say the same things about Hayek over and over again.

>Historicism, 
>because `Intervention must lead to destruction' sounds like a 
>(supposed) law of history.

Popper has a meta-theory of history, which is to deny that a positively predictive theory of history (Hegelian/Marxist/etc. historicism) is possible. This makes for negative predictions, i.e. that Hegelianism and Marxism will fail in their positive predictions. It would be paradoxical to then say that Popper is a historcist like Hegel or Marx, just because he can say something about history.

>I think that one can say these things 
>without embracing the communist party.

What things? I don't see your point here.

>And I think that one can talk 
>about economic, political, and scientific interventions without 
>endorsing a system with scientific, economic, or political despots. I 
>would have thought that this is what democracy is all about. 

A democracy that deprives people of their life, liberty, or property by majority vote is a form of TYRANNY, as when Athens executed Socrates. Political interventions, even by majority vote, to abridge freedom of thought or speech violate the necessary conditions of the Open Society. Popper was against this. Whether democracy or otherwise, "governments are instituted among men to secure these rights...," as Jefferson says. Securing rights, not putting the power of life and death in the hands of the "People," is the first prinicple of a just government.

>You say that `the Hayekian rejection of historicism is of the form
>that they CANNOT be wiser, and so they are in no position to justify 
>their
>use of force and their freedom from the disicpline of the market'.
>I assume you mean `cannot be wiser than Hayek',

Cannot be wiser than ordinary people. Hayek was not asking for dictatorial powers for himself.

>who, of course, IS 
>supposed to be wiser insofar as he knows a priori that intervention 
>must lead to destruction.

As Popper is wiser that an Open Society allows for the progress of knowledge. Popper wasn't asking for dictatorial powers either.

The point with both Popper and Hayek is to limit the power of government. But perhaps you think they merely wanted that power for themselves.

>But you have already admitted that 
>intervention need not lead to destruction (albeit in the course of 
>claiming to have explained how it must). So I conclude that an 
>economic planner CAN be wiser, contra Hayek

Anyone can be wiser when it comes to some positive scientific or economic proposal. Hayek did not invent the micro-processor. But they will not be wiser if they want the power to force others to agree with them or give them their property and freedom. If the "planner" has a positive scientific or economic proposal, then he should trust to its vindication either by experiment, prediction, and logic, or by the discipline of the marketplace. With the power to force agreement or take property, there is no discipline except the practical limits of that power.

>-- though I would not 
>think that one necessarily is, or that this puts him in any position 
>to justify anything.

I lost who you are talking about there. The planner must "jusify" himself with logical or economic results. Hayek can justify himself, not just with a Popperian meta-theory, but with predictions of the failures of economic planning.

>I would also suggest that we would do better to 
>consider the specific interventions that are being proposed, and the 
>problems that they are intended to solve, than to try to rule out 
>interventions a priori (which we cannot, in any event, do).

This has been done extensively, which is why you should consult the literature that is "friendly" (gasp!) to the free market. And when, in study after study, interventions are see to have failed, this begins to sound like evidence that Hayek was right, and it would then behoove one to familiarize oneself with the basis of Hayek's predictions. The wisdom of that familiarity is then to avoid wasting money, time, and people's freedom on confused and dangerous projects.

>> Thus, to your objection that political interventions could be 
>>economic successful, which is just possible, the short answer
>>is, "How do you tell?"
>>When politicians doctor the books to deceive the voters, it 
>>becomes very hard to root out the truth.
>
>The `which is just possible' should be the end of the story.

Hardly. It is "just possible" that Stalin believed some true things, but this does not justify that political system.

>`Is just 
>possible', I can hear Popper saying it, `means is possible'.

Popper would NEVER say that it would be wise or appropriate to trust Stalin with absolute political power just because it "is possible" that he could make a scientific discovery.

>But may 
>I suggest, without being accused of trivializing all the fine work 
>that has been done in economics, that `How do you tell?' cuts both 
>ways?

No, it doesn't, unless you are going to explain how political accountablility through the occasional election or plebicite is going to impose an ECONOMIC discipline, or any discipline, on political interventions.

>>No inconsistency, or you would have to say of Popper that he was a
>>historicist for predicting that Stalinism would be destructive of 
>>good science. 
>
>One can, first of all, make predictions without being an historicist 
>-- simply by regarding those predictions as `guesses' (as opposed to 
>inevitable consequences derived from the infallible laws of history).
>But Popper, quite aside from this, did not PREDICT that Stalin would 
>be destructive of good science. He DISCOVERED it.

This is a distinction without a difference. Does this mean that Popper discovered a principle that is then useless for prediction? That doesn't even make any sense, unless we are talking about astrology instead of science and logic. "Guesses" fairly describes Popper's idea of scientific method ("conjectures and refutations"). But a principle of logic is not a guess, nor a scientific theory. Did Popper "discover" falsification? No--in the sense that falsification is just a (modus) tollendo tollens argument. So I am not clear here what you are even talking about. According to your argument, we would have to say, on the basis of Popper's critique of historicism, that we could not predict the effects of the reign of a future Stalin. But that is absurd. Since the critique of historicism does lead to predictions, then it is subject to falsification; but, as I have pointed out previously, the critique of historicism, the theory of the Open Society, and the logic of Scientific Discovery, are not in the same logical class as scientific theories themselves: They are the meta-theory that establishes how we are to decide the "refutations" part of scientific method. Otherwise, we could just say that Stalin was a good scientist just because HE thought so (as he did--justified by Scientific Socialism and Dialectical Materialism). There must be a criterion of refutation. Avoiding the criterion means circumventing the principles of logic and the Open Society, just as avoiding the criterion of economic success (increasing wealth) means circumventing the principles of the price system and the Free Market.

>I am sending with this another chapter from my book, in which I quote 
>from Popper's correspondence with Carnap. I think it will show that 
>Popper's attitude toward intervention was quite different from what 
>you suppose.

There is some fundamental confusion here. If Popper advocates some Stalinist "intervention" into science and knowedge, it is not clear that the theory of the Open Society has any point.

Kelley



Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998

Dear Kelley,

>It answers the question.  An explanation is something else.

No it doesn't. When I asked `how?', I was asking for an explanation.
 
>If shows an inconsistency if Poppers makes similar claims. 

The `if' is precisely the point. I do not think that Popper makes 
similar claims. See below.

>I do not think this is correct. 

But it IS correct. And it has nothing to do with Stalinist science. 
Falsifiability, contrary to what you say, is neither falsification 
nor a normative principle of logic. It is a proposed intervention 
regarding what we should regard as a scientific theory. Kuhn, 
Feyerabend, and others, incidentally, have argued that it is  
neither descriptive nor prescriptive of thinking in the history of 
science. I disagree. But the intervention that I am referring to is 
NOT when we point out a logical error in someone's reasoning. It is 
the intervention of suggesting that we regard falsifiability, and not 
verifiability, as what is distinctive of science. This, if generally
accepted, would direct science away from non-falsifiable 
(non-empirically testable) theories, which would include a good many  
in the `social sciences'. Whether or not this is political is another 
question. But many (e.g., the Edinburgh school) claim that it is. The 
demand for logical consistency is an entirely different issue. 
Falsifiable theories may be consistent. And many who demand logical 
consistency would deny that scientific theories are or should be 
falsifiable.  

>I would be very astonished if Popper advocated the "piecemeal engineering"
>of logic itself.  

Then you should be very astonished. This is very clear if you regard  
falsifiability as a normative principle of logic. (I don't, but  
you do). His proposal (in Logic of Scientific Knowledge) that we 
reject ad hoc hypotheses to avoid falsification would then be 
piecemeal engineering of logic itself. But Popper, in fact, advocated 
(in Objective Knowledge) that we use classical two valued logic to 
criticize theories and weaker, many valued systems to construct 
proofs.  

>Logic itself is widely regarded as white, male, Eurocentric,
>Capitalist oppression, which means that we must be irrational and
>incoherent to be free and unoppressed.

I am talking about logic. Not sociology. 

>But you avoid the issue why Popper would regard it as IMPOSSIBLE to 
>have genuine scientific discovery if the conditiones sine qua non of 
>rationality could be ignored, attacked, or suppressed, as they have 
>have been and are. 

No I don't.
There is, as I said in a previous email, much that you say about 
Popper that is misinformed. I wanted to get clear upon Hayek's 
mysticism and historicism before addressing these issues, instead of 
running all over the place. But that seems to be impossible. I have 
pointed out two of your misconceptions about Popper above. This is 
another. Popper simply WOULD NOT regard it as IMPOSSIBLE to have 
genuine scientific discovery if the conditions of rationality can be 
ignored, attacked, or suppressed. The very idea is silly. The fact -- 
and you yourself regard it as a fact, as your `as they have been and 
are' indicates -- is that the conditions of rationality HAVE very 
often, if not always, been ignored, attacked, and suppressed. They 
have sometimes been ignored, attacked, and suppressed even by 
scientists. This, however, has not prevented `genuine scientific 
discovery'. This is one of the reasons why I reject your attempts to 
saddle Popper with Hayek's problem. The analogy that you are 
supposing simply doesn't exist.  

>I allow the logical possibility that a political planner could
>have a good economic idea.

Only the LOGICAL possibility? Does this mean that `it is not 
contradictory, but it CANNOT happen in fact'? More specifically: Does 
this mean that it CANNOT happen in fact? Please answer yes or no.

>And I have been saying that Hayek is doing nothing different than 
>Popper. 

We began this whole discussion because you said in your letter of 7 
August `This [i.e., free market] seems to have been a difference 
between Popper himself and F.A. Hayek, though Hayek realized that he 
could use Popper's own ideas to explain the nature of the free market.' I 
answered by agreeing that there was a difference between Popper and 
Hayek, and by saying that the difference was that Popper was more 
open to experimentation -- piecemeal engineering. This difference 
pertains precisely to Hayek's claim that intervention must lead to 
destruction. I said that I wasn't sure that this was Hayek's claim, 
but that it would seem to border on mysticism and historicism if it 
was. But instead of answering my question `If economic developments 
cannot be predicted because there is literally no telling what 
someone is going to come up with, then how can Hayek be certain that 
intervention must lead to destruction and that someone can't come up 
with regulatory interventions that work?' -- which, I presume, you 
can't answer without acknowledging the contradiction -- you tried to 
saddle me with Popper and Popper with an analogous problem. And now 
you would like to say that Hayek and Popper are no different!

>"Reasoning about it is beyond our powers," because the subject matter
>cannot be predicted, which is Popper's argument against historicism.  

Popper believed that we could reason about all sorts of things that 
we cannot predict. We can reason, for example, about history, and 
we do so when we attempt to give explanations of historical events. 
We may even try to predict the future. The difference is that Popper 
denied that there were LAWS of history. He also denied that science 
is about justified or certain belief. This is an entirely different 
thing than whether or not we can reason about something.  

>Popper has a meta-theory of history, which is to deny that a positively
>predictive theory of history (Hegelian/Marxist/etc. historicism) is
>possible. This makes for negative predictions, i.e. that Hegelianism and
>Marxism will fail in their positive predictions. 

This is simply confused. Even oracles make successful predictions. 
The issue for Popper was not whether predictions are or could be 
successful. It was whether the theory was falsifiable, i.e., whether 
the theory has consequences that could conflict with statements that 
describe possible empirical observations.  
 
>>I think that one can say these things 
>>without embracing the communist party.
>
>What things?  I don't see your point here.

That what Hayek says about intervention -- if in fact he says it -- 
borders on mysticism and historicism. I say this, and you  
immediately talk as if I am trying to justify the communist/socialist 
political system. I am not. See below.
 
>I lost who you are talking about there.

You wrote in your last email `The Hayekian rejection of historicism 
is of the form that they CANNOT be wiser, and so they are in no 
position to justify their use of force and their freedom from the 
disicpline of the market'.

>>The `which is just possible' should be the end of the story.
>
>Hardly.  It is "just possible" that Stalin believed some true things, but
>this does not justify that political system.

I am not talking about Stalin or about justifying the political 
system. You are. And I frankly think that it is an evasive tactic. I 
am talking -- and have in our correspondence always been talking -- 
about Hayek's claim, IF it is his claim (but you do not deny that it is), 
that intervention MUST lead to destruction. I think that this claim 
borders on mysticism and historicism. I do not think that the fact 
that it borders on mysticism and historicism justifies any political 
or economic system, let alone Stalin's. Your admission `which is just 
possible' [which you now want to say means `logically possible', see 
above] should be end of the story, since it acknowledges what Hayek 
seems to deny, i.e., that economic interventions can be successful.
You now say `Hayek can justify himself, not just with a Popperian 
meta-theory, but with predictions of the failures of economic 
planning'. This is the very sort of inductivism that Popper is 
criticizing. Suppose Hayek makes the claim that `Interventions must 
fail'. The claim is universal in form and empirical in nature. We 
cannot verify, or justify, it. But we can falsify it -- as well as we 
can falsify anything -- by finding instances of successful 
interventions.  

>Popper would NEVER say that it would be wise or appropriate to trust
>Stalin with absolute political power just because it "is possible"
>that he could make a scientific discovery.

Of course not. Either would I. But he would say that it is possible 
for economic interventions to be successful. This, incidentally, a different 
question from whether it would be wise or appropriate to TRUST them. 
Popper's position is that we should TRY them, but not TRUST them. 

>No, it doesn't, unless you are going to explain how political
>accountablility through the occasional election or plebicite is going to
>impose an ECONOMIC discipline, or any discipline, on political 
>interventions.
  
You wrote, in your last email `Thus, to your objection that political 
interventions could be economic successful, which is just possible,  
the short answer is, "How do you tell?" When politicians doctor the 
books to deceive the voters, it becomes very hard to root out the 
truth.' I interpret `How do you tell?' to mean `How do you tell that 
the intervention is successful?' The problem that you point to is 
the possibility of politicians doctoring the books to deceive the 
voters. But the politicians are not the only ones who doctor the 
books. And there are politicians, in any event, arguing on both sides 
of the fence. So `How do you tell?' cuts both ways.

>This is a distinction without a difference. Does this mean that Popper
>discovered a principle that is then useless for prediction?  

It means that Popper did not articulate a philosophy of science and 
then predict that communist/socialist ideology would be destructive  
of good science. On the contrary, he discovered that Marxism was not 
good science, and then tried to articulate a philosophy of science to 
explain why. Popper regarded himself as a socialist for a long time, 
and even as a communist for a brief period in 1919. He changed his 
views for a variety of reasons. Stalin is never mentioned in his 
book. But his rejection of socialism was due, in large part, to 
his first-hand discovery of the ideological restrictions that the 
socialists placed upon critical thinking. This was an EMPIRICAL 
discovery that he made in Vienna, and that led him to revise his 
theory of science, and his own political position. That's why I sent 
you my paper on his critique of scientific socialism.

>So I am not clear here what you are even talking about.

That much is clear. 

You need not read the whole chapter that I sent to you. Just the 
letter to Carnap in which Popper lists the points upon which he 
agrees and disagrees with the socialists.

Best wishes,
Mark


At 03:04 PM 9/2/98, you wrote:
>> It answers the question.  An explanation is something else.
>
>No it doesn't. When I asked `how?', I was asking for an explanation.

The explanation was in Popper's critique of historicism and theory of the Open Society, which was the point of the analogy. If we disagree about Popper's theory, that is something else. So you didn't accept that analogy. That does not make my answer a non-answer. It just means that you didn't like it. There was also considerable explanation (about rent seeking, economic calculation, etc.). You seem to have ignored a lot of that, although it was relevant to the limitation of our knowledge, a Kantian principle common to Popper and Hayek (and the opposite of the "mysticism and historicism" of which you accuse Hayek).

>>If [sic, should be "It"] shows an inconsistency if Poppers
>>makes similar claims. 
>
>The `if' is precisely the point. I do not think that Popper makes 
>similar claims. See below.

The subject of the dispute.

>> I do not think this is correct. 
>
>But it IS correct. And it has nothing to do with Stalinist science.

Yes it does, if "Stalinist science" is taken as paradigmatic of the denial of the Open Society. Nazi science would work just a well. Something like "Stalinist science" helps define the boundary between the Open Society and the Closed Society, which was the point of all my remarks, although you seem to be busy blurring or denying the boundary.

>Falsifiability, contrary to what you say, is neither falsification 
>nor a normative principle of logic.

Falsifiablity means "subject" or "vulnerable to falsification." Falsification is an application of certain rules of logic. The demand for falsifiable theories is thus the demand that certain propositions be subject to a certain logical test. Popper himself said that falsification was simply "Modus Tollens." Verifiable theories are searching for Modus Ponens instead. Your picking a fight over this seems to me merely evasive of the point, which was that logic helps define the boundary between rationality and irrationality.

>It is a proposed intervention 
>regarding what we should regard as a scientific theory.

You are using "intervention" is a general way that is not relevant to the issue. I have been using "intevention" to mean applications of political force, either to suppress speech and thought, or to seize property and restrict voluntary economic exchanges. The demand for falsifiability as an "intervention" has nothing to do with either of those. It is a normative and descriptive criterion to separate science from non-science. It doesn't mean that the police are going to show up to shoot non-scientists. These diverging uses of "interevention" mean that we are speaking past each other, though I think that maintaining an ambiguity strengthens your case when you can lump the police seizing property (in economic "intervention") with philosophers of science condemning something as non-science.

>Kuhn, 
>Feyerabend, and others, incidentally, have argued that it is  
>neither descriptive nor prescriptive of thinking in the history of 
>science. I disagree. But the intervention that I am referring to is 
>NOT when we point out a logical error in someone's reasoning. It is 
>the intervention of suggesting that we regard falsifiability, and not 
>verifiability, as what is distinctive of science.

Again, that is not the kind of "intervention" I have been talking about, or that is at issue with the original topic here, which was clearly economic intervention, or with the analogy, which was the boundary between the Open and the Closed Society. You may accuse ME of bringing Popper into it, but I was doing so in the sense that Popper's theory of the Open Society precludes similar interventions BY FORCE in matters of speech, thought, and the practice of scientific inquiry. But you have missed that part of it, speaking of "intervention" simply in terms of the theoretical demarcation criterion bewteen science and non-science.

>This, if generally
>accepted, would direct science away from non-falsifiable 
>(non-empirically testable) theories, which would include a good many  
>in the `social sciences'. Whether or not this is political is another 
>question. But many (e.g., the Edinburgh school) claim that it is. The 
>demand for logical consistency is an entirely different issue. 
>Falsifiable theories may be consistent. And many who demand logical 
>consistency would deny that scientific theories are or should be 
>falsifiable.  

This is either not in dispute here or is beside the point. Consistency is logically a necessary condition of truth. This is an important part of the boundaries both between rationality and irrationality and bewteen science and non-science. The nice thing about inconsistent theories is that they are self-falsifying. Anyone who does not "demand" consistency is on very strange ground.

>> I would be very astonished if Popper advocated the "piecemeal engineering"
>> of logic itself.  
>
>Then you should be very astonished. This is very clear if you regard  
>falsifiability as a normative principle of logic. (I don't, but  
>you do).

As I said, falsifiability is not a principle of logic, but the application of one.

>His proposal (in Logic of Scientific Knowledge) that we 
>reject ad hoc hypotheses to avoid falsification would then be 
>piecemeal engineering of logic itself.

Absolutely not. It is you who astonish me, not Popper. Reasoning about evidence or hypotheses is not the engineering of logic but the age old question of the suitable premies of logical argument--the extra-logical issue of Aristotle's Posterior Analytics. "Ad hoc hypotheses to avoid falsification" may be clumsy technique, but logically they may work quite well, and reasoning about them has little to with logic. Rejecting them would better be called an application of Ockham's Razor than an application of falsifiability. That is fine as philosophy of science, even Popper's philosophy of science, but it presupposes deductive logic itself.

>But Popper, in fact, advocated 
>(in Objective Knowledge) that we use classical two valued logic to 
>criticize theories and weaker, many valued systems to construct 
>proofs.

Again, this is not relevant to the issue. A weaker, many valued logic (with "uncertain," "unknown," "probable," "improbable," or whatever) postpones and does not replace a two valued logic. Someone who contradicts themselves is not going become consistent just by fudging things with extra logical "values." If Popper was a realist, and I gather that he was, then propositions are either True or False, regardless of the status of our knowledge about them. If the Law of the Excluded Middle were wrong, and cognitive uncertainties were part of things themselves, mixing human psychology with reality, that would be (gasp!) a kind of Psychologism. Of course, this is a serious question when it comes to quantum mechanics, but I don't think we are talking about that (yet). In any case, this is not "engineering" logic in the relevant sense, since our reasoning deals with the "many values" all the time anyway, and it is merely a practical question whether it is worth building uncertainties into logical form or just taking them into consideration when using T/F forms. As it happens, not only does a multivalued logic turn out to be very clumsy, but symbolic logic in general has not become the kind of valuable tool of reasoning that the Positivists, and perhaps even Popper, expected. The hard edge of reasoning is still the Excluded Middle.

>>Logic itself is widely regarded as white, male, Eurocentric,
>>Capitalist oppression, which means that we must be irrational and
>>incoherent to be free and unoppressed.
>
>I am talking about logic. Not sociology.

But the challenge I was citing was by people who regard the sociology as something that discredits logic itself, i.e. to them logic can be "engineered" to reflect their ideas which might otherwise be called irrational and incoherent. And you are the one arguing for some kind of "engineering" that might allow that, not me. I would say that you are confusing method with logic, as they confused sociology with logic. I was talking about logic as the indispensible and undeniable foundation of consistency and rationality.

>>But you avoid the issue why Popper would regard it as IMPOSSIBLE to 
>>have genuine scientific discovery if the conditiones sine qua non of 
>>rationality could be ignored, attacked, or suppressed, as they have 
>>have been and are. 
>
>No I don't. There is, as I said in a previous email, much that you say
>about Popper that is misinformed.

Excuse me. You still avoid the issue of the boundary between rationality and irrationality, science and non-science, and the Open and the Closed Societies. Since Hayek simply adds to and clarifies the latter boundary, your evasion means that you can avoid an honest reckoning with Hayek.

>I wanted to get clear upon Hayek's 
>mysticism and historicism before addressing these issues, instead of 
>running all over the place.

Since Hayek was neither a mystic nor a historicist, I was pointing out how his views were merely an exstension of Popper's theory of the Open Society. What is not getting pinned down here is exactly how you think that Popper's theory of the Open Society actually excludes certain political regimes. You have been avoiding positive statements about this--either dismissing something like Stalinist science as either irrelevant or, unbelievably, possibly allowing for good science. I have not been "running all over the place" but focusing on the analogous boundaries described by Popper and Hayek. You seem reluctant to admit that there are boundaries, which makes me wonder why you would think that the Open Society is superior to the Closed Society.

>But that seems to be impossible. I have 
>pointed out two of your misconceptions about Popper above.

And I dispute that and charge you with missing the point.

>This is 
>another. Popper simply WOULD NOT regard it as IMPOSSIBLE to have 
>genuine scientific discovery if the conditions of rationality can be 
>ignored, attacked, or suppressed.

So what kind of regime, again, does the Open Society exclude? And why? If genuine scientific discovery is barely possible in a totalitarian regime, this is a recommendation for a totalitarian regime? You rely want to offer a brief for Stalinist or Nazi science?

>The very idea is silly.

Only if you are refusing to get the point. The "impossible" above depends on what we mean by "genuine scientific discovery." The scientists who escape their political control and indoctrination to pursue non-political science are no tribute to the system under which they labor. When rationality itself is suppressed, then even the genuine discoveries may be suppressed. Thus, a suffocation settles over the scientific community in which truth counts for nothing and the politically reliable, however incompetent, prosper. We reasonably expect real science to cease to exist in such circumstances.

>The fact -- 
>and you yourself regard it as a fact, as your `as they have been and 
>are' indicates -- is that the conditions of rationality HAVE very 
>often, if not always, been ignored, attacked, and suppressed.

So? This is what happens in the Closed Society. Why would anyone want to deny that it has happened?

>They 
>have sometimes been ignored, attacked, and suppressed even by 
>scientists.

Again, no doubt, although such scientists then put themselves on the path to being ideologues or priests rather than scientists.

>This, however, has not prevented `genuine scientific 
>discovery'.

Of course it has. Tally up the Nobel Prizes in science awarded to Soviet block scientists in comparison to Western scientists. The political suppression of discovery among the former should be obvious. The Soviet scientists who built an atomic bomb labored under Beria's desire to shoot them all as politically unreliable. Stalin was sympathetic, but he also really wanted the bomb.

Most importantly, if you do not think that scientific discovery is subverted, suppressed, or abolished (as in Cambodia) by irrationality and tyranny, then, again, what is wrong with the Closed Society and what benefits does science drive from the Open Society?

>This is one of the reasons why I reject your attempts to 
>saddle Popper with Hayek's problem. The analogy that you are 
>supposing simply doesn't exist.

While Hayek does not have a problem, it is looking to me as though YOU do if you are going to dispute every characterization of the evils and drawbacks of the Closed Society on science.

>>I allow the logical possibility that a political planner could have a
>>good economic idea.
>
>Only the LOGICAL possibility? Does this mean that `it is not 
>contradictory, but it CANNOT happen in fact'? More specifically: Does 
>this mean that it CANNOT happen in fact? Please answer yes or no.

Yes, it can happen with the same possibility that an armed robber might use his loot for some good end. This does not make for a justification for armed robbery. You want the bare "possibility" that planning could do something good to justify the moral or economic value of planning. That is ridiculous. You are really straining at a flea here.

>>And I have been saying that Hayek is doing nothing different than 
>>Popper. 
>
>We began this whole discussion because you said in your letter of 7 
>August `This [i.e., free market] seems to have been a difference 
>between Popper himself and F.A. Hayek, though Hayek realized that he 
>could use Popper's own ideas to explain the nature of the free market.' I 
>answered by agreeing that there was a difference between Popper and 
>Hayek, and by saying that the difference was that Popper was more 
>open to experimentation -- piecemeal engineering.

And Hayek, as a better economist, realized that experimentation with economic planning is like experimentation with holding a gun to the head of scientists. Since plenty of economic experimentation has already taken place, it is not like we are lacking evidence of what happens; nor are we lacking the theoretical understanding of why. You could never call Hayek a mystic if you were familiar with that theoretical understanding, and although I have referred to a great deal of it (especially in Public Choice economics), you have been dismissive and disparaging without addressing any issue in particular, although I have mentioned several.

>This difference 
>pertains precisely to Hayek's claim that intervention must lead to 
>destruction.

You love that "lead to destruction" phrase. "Inevitable diseconomy" would be less exaggerated and more to the point. Even von Mises's argument against economic calcuation alone explains the inevitable diseconomies of planning.

>I said that I wasn't sure that this was Hayek's claim, 
>but that it would seem to border on mysticism and historicism if it 
>was. But instead of answering my question `If economic developments 
>cannot be predicted because there is literally no telling what 
>someone is going to come up with, then how can Hayek be certain that 
>intervention must lead to destruction and that someone can't come up 
>with regulatory interventions that work?' -- which, I presume, you 
>can't answer without acknowledging the contradiction -- you tried to 
>saddle me with Popper and Popper with an analogous problem. And now 
>you would like to say that Hayek and Popper are no different!

Your question has been answered in some detail. The analogy was that Hayek can make predictions about history the same way that Popper can make predictions about history. But you don't want to admit that Popper can make any predictions, so evidently we don't know what will happen in the Closed Society or if the rules of rationality are systematically suppressed for political reasons. This seems to me a desperate level of Know Nothing-ism just so that you can continue accusing Hayek of mysticism and historicism.

The certainty of diseconomies in economic intervention result, as I wrote last time, from the possibility of politics avoiding the discipline of the market. This violates the boundaries established by the Free Market, which are analogous, indeed, an extension, of the boundaries betwen the Open Society and the Closed Society. But evidently you think that science and everything else would work just fine in the Closed Society. Or at least you have avoided admitting there was a difference in your arguments above.

>>"Reasoning about it is beyond our powers," because the subject matter
>>cannot be predicted, which is Popper's argument against historicism.  
>
>Popper believed that we could reason about all sorts of things that 
>we cannot predict. We can reason, for example, about history, and 
>we do so when we attempt to give explanations of historical events. 
>We may even try to predict the future. The difference is that Popper 
>denied that there were LAWS of history. He also denied that science 
>is about justified or certain belief. This is an entirely different 
>thing than whether or not we can reason about something.  

We cannot reason about data that is not available to us. Thus the future, in so far as it contains radical novelty, cannot be either predicted or reasoned about. What we CAN then reason about is how the emergence of radical novelty can be protected and promoted. Popper therefore described that conditions that allow multiple unpredictable scientists to freely propose their new theories. Those are the conditions of the Open Society. Hayek then extends the critique to the conditions that allow multiple unpredictable entrepreneurs to offer new products to consumers and create new wealth. Those are the conditions of the Free Market. Violating the former conditions suppresses rational inquiry, although you evidently don't want to admit that. Violating the latter conditions suppresses the creation of wealth. Violating the conditions of the free market means that the value of things cannot be calculated (von Mises's argument) and that there is no discipline to ensure that uneconomic projects are eliminated (Public Choice economics). Hayek understood that violating the conditions of the free market, besides these effects, can also be morally characterized in two ways: theft and slavery. Taking wealth by force is theft, abridging free exchange is involuntary servitude.

>>Popper has a meta-theory of history, which is to deny that a positively
>>predictive theory of history (Hegelian/Marxist/etc. historicism) is
>>possible. This makes for negative predictions, i.e. that Hegelianism and
>>Marxism will fail in their positive predictions. 
>
>This is simply confused. Even oracles make successful predictions.
>The issue for Popper was not whether predictions are or could be 
>successful. It was whether the theory was falsifiable, i.e., whether 
>the theory has consequences that could conflict with statements that 
>describe possible empirical observations.

"Whether the theory has consequences that could conflict with statements that describe possible empirical observations," is simply a fancy and prolix way of saying "the theory logically makes predictions that can be contradicted by observation." This amounts to the SAME THING as to say that theories must make predictions that "are or could be successful." If they can be successful, then they can also be unsuccessful, i.e. falsifiable. Thus, you seem the confused one to me. Oracles are not theories. Marx and Hegel had theories. Marx and Hegel made predictions that conflicted with subsequent observations. Thus their theories were falsified. But Popper goes further than that. The theory of historicism is that the KIND OF THEORY offered by them COULD NOT be successful. But to you such a claim by Popper would have to be instance of mysticism and historicism.

>>>I think that one can say these things 
>>>without embracing the communist party.
> 
>>What things?  I don't see your point here.
>
>That what Hayek says about intervention -- if in fact he says it -- 
>borders on mysticism and historicism.

This gets a little tedious.

>I say this, and you  
>immediately talk as if I am trying to justify the communist/socialist 
>political system. I am not. See below.

I've been trying to find out exactly WHY you would REJECT the communist/socialist political system, since that clarifies the boundary between the Open Society and the Closed Society. .....

>> >The `which is just possible' should be the end of the story.
> 
>> Hardly.  It is "just possible" that Stalin believed some true things, but
>> this does not justify that political system.
>
>I am not talking about Stalin or about justifying the political 
>system. You are. And I frankly think that it is an evasive tactic.

No. It is the essence of the issue. If the "Open Society and Its Enemies" is a critique of totalitarianism, then it is a critique of Stalin. That you seem to be arguing that science could continue under Stalinism evades the force of the critique.

>I 
>am talking -- and have in our correspondence always been talking -- 
>about Hayek's claim, IF it is his claim (but you do not deny that it is), 
>that intervention MUST lead to destruction.

And I have explained and indicated both the diseconomies of violating the conditions of the free market and the analogy with violating the conditions of Popper's Open Society. You haven't even explained what this term, "destruction," that you keep using, is supposed to mean. If it means a decline, rather than in increase, in wealth, then Hayek explains it well.

>I think that this claim 
>borders on mysticism and historicism.

Hardly. Just economics that has learned something since 1945.

>I do not think that the fact 
>that it borders on mysticism and historicism justifies any political 
>or economic system, let alone Stalin's.

Your accusation that it "borders on mysticism and historicism" is part of your justification for the kinds of economic interventions that have proven disastrous over and over again, and the reasons for whose failures are now well understood precisely because of economists like Hayek, to whose insights you are stubbornly resistant.

>Your admission `which is just 
>possible' [which you now want to say means `logically possible', see 
>above] should be end of the story, since it acknowledges what Hayek 
>seems to deny, i.e., that economic interventions can be successful.

Theft as an "economic intervention" can be "successful" for the beneficiaries. This does not make it "successful" in any practical or meaningful sense that could be applied to politics. The analogy was that a despot could happen do good science, but no one then adovcates despotism to get good scientists.

>You now say `Hayek can justify himself, not just with a Popperian 
>meta-theory, but with predictions of the failures of economic 
>planning'. This is the very sort of inductivism that Popper is 
>criticizing.

It is not inductivism, but a meta-theory, indeed, a Kantian critique, like Popper's critique of the "science" of Hegel and Marx.

>Suppose Hayek makes the claim that `Interventions must 
>fail'. The claim is universal in form and empirical in nature. We 
>cannot verify, or justify, it. But we can falsify it -- as well as we 
>can falsify anything -- by finding instances of successful 
>interventions.  

If you think there are successful interventions, which falsify Hayek, that's wonderful. We can then get down to cases.

>>Popper would NEVER say that it would be wise or appropriate to trust Stalin
>>with absolute political power just because it "is possible" that he could
>>make a scientific discovery.
>
>Of course not. Either would I.

Thank God.

>But he would say that it is possible 
>for economic interventions to be successful.

Because his economic understanding was naive and out of date. Hayek got the Nobel Prize in Economics, not Popper. Hayek had the wisdom to realize the value of Popper's work, but Popper was too sentimentally attached to the idea of socialism, even until the end, evidently, to realize the fatal and intrinsic crime and confusion involved in it, which Hayek could have explained to him.

>This, incidentally, a different 
>question from whether it would be wise or appropriate to TRUST them. 
>Popper's position is that we should TRY them, but not TRUST them. 

If Popper ever recommended that we "TRY" giving absolute power to Stalin, I would be, again, very astonished. Something of the sort is RULED OUT by the principles of the Open Society, but I think you avoid admitting this.

>>No, it doesn't, unless you are going to explain how political
>>accountablility through the occasional election or plebicite is going to
>>impose an ECONOMIC discipline, or any discipline, on political 
>>interventions.
>  
>You wrote, in your last email `Thus, to your objection that political 
>interventions could be economic successful, which is just possible,  
>the short answer is, "How do you tell?" When politicians doctor the 
>books to deceive the voters, it becomes very hard to root out the 
>truth.' I interpret `How do you tell?' to mean `How do you tell that 
>the intervention is successful?' The problem that you point to is 
>the possibility of politicians doctoring the books to deceive the 
>voters. But the politicians are not the only ones who doctor the 
>books. And there are politicians, in any event, arguing on both sides 
>of the fence. So `How do you tell?' cuts both ways.

You "tell" by eliminating the role of the politicians. That is Hayek's "Constitution of Liberty," which establishes the conditions of the free market, which imposes the discipline. Businesses that doctor the books cannot call in the police to shoot the auditors or arrest the stockholders or imprison the bankers holding a note from the business. Thus, there are multiple persons who can call in the law against the crooked business. No cooked books can conceal forever fraud and theft. But when it is in the interest of the law to be crooked, there is not only no appeal to a higher authority, the higher authority itself turns against the supplicants. But it is not my responsibility to explain this to you. It is all part of the Public Choice economics of which you are so dismissive, since you probably correctly perceive that it is a threat to the statist economic projects that you may favor.

>>This is a distinction without a difference. Does this mean that Popper
>>discovered a principle that is then useless for prediction?  
>
>It means that Popper did not articulate a philosophy of science and 
>then predict that communist/socialist ideology would be destructive  
>of good science. On the contrary, he discovered that Marxism was not 
>good science, and then tried to articulate a philosophy of science to 
>explain why.

This is astounding. Popper's theory of the Open Society has got to be predictive of SOME kind of defects in the Close Society, and it is pretty obvious that those defects include the kind of intellectual persecution that is destructive of good science--obviously by discouraging certain results with fear of arrest and by promoting pseudo-science that is ideologically agreeable. Marxism was not only bad science, it become a theory of totaliarianism. Popper's theories are not logically isolated from each other. The philosophy of science, the critique of historicism, and the theory of the Open Society are all about the same things--exmplified by Hegelianism and Marxism, which violate the criterion of good science, which produce a prophetic pseudo-science of history, and which justify the totalitarian forms of the Closed Society.

It is amazing to me how you can be a student of Popper and keep making what seem to be obtuse objections to the idea that Popper's theory excludes the conditions of the Closed Society and would make predictions about the evil effects therein. But if you admitted that, you might have to admit the analogy with Hayek, which could make you too "friendly" to capitalism.

>Popper regarded himself as a socialist for a long time, 
>and even as a communist for a brief period in 1919. He changed his 
>views for a variety of reasons. Stalin is never mentioned in his 
>book.

Give me a break. Popper doesn't have to mention Stalin for us to recognize him as paradigmatic of everything vicious and tyrannical about the Closed Society, with both the evil effects on science, the mass murders, and the devastation of the Russian economy.

>But his rejection of socialism was due, in large part, to 
>his first-hand discovery of the ideological restrictions that the 
>socialists placed upon critical thinking. This was an EMPIRICAL 
>discovery that he made in Vienna, and that led him to revise his 
>theory of science, and his own political position. That's why I sent 
>you my paper on his critique of scientific socialism.

Oh. So restrictions on critical thinking are bad. So what do you think is bad about them? Your remarks leave this completely mysterious, since you don't want to allow that tyranny would make for bad science.

What Popper didn't realize in those days was that socialism would impoverish people and produce stagnation in previously producive economies. It would take longer for that to become obvious, though it had already been predicted by von Mises, whom you do not mention in your remarks, despite the power and prescience of his theory.

Popper correctly anticipated that socialism could result in more exploitation than capitalism. That it WOULD result in more, and that the whole Marxist idea of "exploitation" in capitalism, would require better economic understanding, now provied by Hayek and by Chicago and Virginia economists.

>>So I am not clear here what you are even talking about.
>
>That much is clear. 

I beg your pardon. It is clear to me that your antipathy to capitalism blinds you to one of the most valuable applications of Karl Popper's own ideas and leads you to disparage in dismissive terms ("mysticism") one of the greatest economists of the age, F.A. Hayek, who was the very material friend, helper, and advocate of Popper.

>You need not read the whole chapter that I sent to you. Just the 
>letter to Carnap in which Popper lists the points upon which he 
>agrees and disagrees with the socialists.

An exchange most revealing of the ignorance and confusion about economics under which both Carnap and Popper labored. There is no excuse for that now, and I am very disappointed in your idée fixe dismissal of Hayek and of the vindication of the free market, in theory and practice.

Kelley Ross


Date:   Sat, 5 Sep 1998

Dear Kelley,

I have read your email of 4 September, and it really IS a bit 
tedious. You again write very many paragraphs and, in the process, 
make many false assumptions about my beliefs, aims, and motives -- and 
also about those of Popper (with whom I discussed these issues in 
some detail). But you systematically evade my question, while -- yes, 
I know -- claiming to have answered it. 

In your email of 3 September (to which I did not reply) you wrote: `I 
answered you in a lot less than one paragraph, but you disputed the 
answered'. If you think for a moment, you may realize that it is 
actually impossible to answer in less than a paragraph -- let alone 
`a lot less'. 

There is much in your last email that is of the same character. You 
say, for example, that `Popper himself said that falsification was 
simply "Modus Tollens."' But you forget that falsifiability, and 
falsification, necessarily involve observation statements -- whereas
modus tollens, as a purely logical rule of inference, does not. (And 
you then say that I confuse logic with method!) When I ask you 
to answer `Yes' or `No' to whether a political planner can in fact 
have a good economic idea, you say, `Yes, it can happen with  
the same possibility that an armed robber might use his loot for some 
good end'. 

But all this, again, is tedious. I was not `complaining' when I said 
in my last email that there was no need to reply. I simply do not 
find such communication productive, and I do not think that it is 
worth the time that it takes to continue it.    

I hope you will agree. 

Best wishes,
Mark Notturno


Correspondence

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Copyright (c) 1998 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. and Mark Notturo, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved