March 10, 2010
Knowledge and Decisions: A Book Review

This What-Are-You-Reading post was written by Indiana Humanities Council board member Terry Anker. Terry is also chairman of The Anker Consulting Group.

Presently, I’m enjoying Knowledge and Decisions by distinguished author, Thomas Sowell, the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Originally published in 1980 and reissued in 1996, this book was lauded at that time as a seminal volume. Winning the 1980 Law and Economics Center prize, it assesses in great and accurate depth the required accumulation and distribution of knowledge required and applied as societies contemplate important decisions both in economics and in the creation of social order.

My interest in, and reading of, another important economist F. A. Hayek led to the discovery of this book. In his endorsement of Sowell’s analysis of the process by which we learn to use information to specialize and thereby increasingly gain efficiencies in the distribution of labor and thinking across society, Hayek applauded Sowell’s ability to distill highly complex concepts into practical and thoughtful applications thereby assisting the reader in understanding events that are both universally relevant and contemporarily important.

It strikes me that we routinely refer to our understanding of the underlayment of social order — especially as we contemplate aggressive social engineering routinely under consideration Washington DC.  Yet, many of the foundations to our conception come to us second hand.  In reading Sowell, I am finding a better understanding of how collective human behavior is organized – not from a third-party point of view but from the singular mind often credited as best conceiving it.  Do you read Jefferson, or do you prefer to read those who write about Jefferson?

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