Examples of a variant of what Mises termed the ultimate given regularly catch my attention.
According to Mises, “Scientific research sooner or later, but inevitably, encounters something ultimately given that it cannot trace back to something else of which it would appear as the regular or necessary derivative.”
In other words, the ultimate given is the marginal bit of knowledge with regard to any subject. The explanation for this marginal bit is currently unknown, though we must accept it as the ultimate given, for now, anyway. While “[s]cientific progress consists in pushing further back this ultimately given,” an ultimate given will always remain.
For acting man, there is also an ultimate given. This is the marginal bit of Kirznerian action-knowledge that man assumes must be taken as the ultimate given. While man may have information-knowledge that exceeds his action-knowledge, man, for whatever reason, does not act as if he possesses that knowledge.
For those who want to advance a cause — to progress society — shortening the action-knowledge horizon of individuals is an effective strategy.
The Republicans — in spite of all their bluster — are simply working to set the ultimate given of government spending to 2008, just three short years ago. By claiming they want to rollback spending levels to 2008, they are subtly turning focus to that year — leaving government spending in prior years beyond the ultimate given, and beyond question.
Many folks will act as if Republican spending increases during the Bush years never occurred. Oh, sure, these folks will know (have the information) that the Republican years created this mess, but these very same folks will act (and vote) as if that knowledge is unknowable.
So Republican hypocrisy will not be called into question — the ultimate given of action-knowledge will be set at the final Bush budget. A masterful plan and a great deception.
Note: In Ohio, folks act as if the state income tax always existed — it is an ultimate given. Yet, the tax is not even 40 years old.