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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5629/knowledge-action-and-the-feds/

Knowledge, action, and the feds

September 17, 2006 by

As has been reported on this blog, Israel Kirzner wrote a short article where he distinguishes between information-knowledge and action-knowledge. The distinction between the two is that action-knowledge refers to “knowledge that actually spurs and shapes action” while information-knowledge is simply facts and figures that exist in memory. The point is that information alone has no economic value unless it takes the form of action-knowledge, thereby causing acting man to direct and redirect scarce resources to satisfy the most-pressing needs.

As reported by The Christian Science Monitor, Congress is working on a bill which will provide for a searchable internet database that details how government is spending our federal tax dollars. I’m certain that all of this data will be of interest to a lot of people, but additional heaps of data will not spur or shape any political change. The Soviet Union, another planned economy, was flooded in data yet continually wasted scarce resources chasing utopian dreams.

We already have sufficient data to know for certain that the feds are spending way too much of our tax dollars. We don’t need more data; we need someone to stand before Congress like Davey Crockett and remind our representatives that our money is not theirs to give. We need action, and its requisite action-knowledge, instead of servers full of more depressing data.

{ 1 comment }

gene berman September 18, 2006 at 8:50 am

This following) is off the main point but, I believe, is not only more in line with Misesian thought on the subject but is the most encompassing statement (which, like all deductive truths, cannot be falsified by experience).

There is no difference–no possible separation or demarcation line–distinguishing “action” from “information” knowledge; no distinction between “pure” and “applied” science or research; nothing whatever separating the “practical” from the “theoretical.” All of human life and thought not purely autonomous and involuntary lie within the purview of action.

I did not read Kirzner’s piece but doubt that he would take issue with my statements.

The principal difference between information as amassed by those engaged in private activity (including entrepreneurial or business activity) and by those employed seeking information on behalf of government is no different in kind from the distinction between other types of activities in which both engage. That is to say, `that the private-activity motive is always improvement of the private actors’ states of future want-satisfaction; the essential core teaching of the Austrian school is that such activity (short of population saturation a la Malthus) provides all participants with the greatest amount of satisfaction possible without depredation and conflict. The deficit of resource-allocation as practiced by authority is simply to be seen in the fact that, beyond certain necessary police functions, every activity of authority is bent on diversion of resources from that which would have been market-determined and toward some other. In this wise, all government-produced information (to the extent it is not duplicative of private efforts) has, as its effect (whether or not specifically intentional) the overall misallocation continuously produced: its net productivity is a loss in terms of want-satisfaction, whether proceeding from the basest or most noble of motives.

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