Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bastiat on intellectual arrogance

Frederik Bastiat is one of the underrated thinkers of the 20th century. In his most famous essay The Law he points out a discrepancy in government planning:

This must be said: There are too many "great" men in the world—legislators, organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations, and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it, and ruling it.

Now someone will say: "You yourself are doing this very thing." True. But it must be admitted that I act in an entirely different sense; if I have joined the ranks of the reformers, it is solely for the purpose of persuading them to leave people alone.
I think part of people's opposition to collective rating systems is that they inherently believe that their tastes are more refined or somehow better than the mass majority of people's. They believe that their tastes are special.

I just finished Anna Karenina, and I never fell in love with it. If pressed, I would give it a 6 out of 10. That said, I'd still recommend that you read it, because 125 top authors recently rated it the greatest book ever.

I'm still grappling with the concept of respecting the majority opinion over my own--it's difficult to do and it is oddly Bayesian. I think the key may lie in Bastiat's analysis that there are too many people trying to lead and not enough people respecting the rights and opinions of others.