This was it, wasn’t it? In his Nobel Lecture, The Pretence of Knowledge, Hayek pointed out that we can’t plan economies because we can’t know what is happening in them. Without the information of what is going on we can’t - logically enough - determine what should happen, nor how to make it happen.
We admit to a tad of simplification there but that’s rather what he did say. Fortunately we currently have a government intent on proving this contention to us, which is nice, reality proving theory:
The Government has been accused of “sheer hypocrisy” for urging schools to become plastic free zones, after it emerged that its own fruit and vegetable initiative uses plastic packaging.
Under the scheme, all children at aged between four and six-years-old who attend state-funded primary schools are given a daily portion of fruit or vegetables. These are delivered to schools by Foodbuy, a Government supplier, wrapped in single-use plastic.
This week the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, called on headteachers to contact their suppliers and ask for all deliveries to be made with packaging that is reusable or recyclable.
He said schools should stop using items such as plastic straws, bottles, food packaging and plastic bags and opt instead for sustainable alternatives.
It’s not that the Minister can’t try to control it’s that he doesn’t even know. Doesn’t know not just what we 65 million out here are doing, or the generality of the government, but doesn’t know what his own department is doing on a daily basis.
At which point this cloud of ignorance is going to make planning everything a bit difficult, as Hayek told us.
Of course, given that this about plastics is all a religious mania rather than anything rational there’s this as well:
Ms Sutherland said that using plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables is “one of the most indefensible uses of plastic”, since there are so many more environmentally friendly alternatives.
But if there are so many options which are better then why is it that people are using the one that isn’t better? We do tend to think that people aren’t stupid, that they optimise their use of resources. Rather a lot of our observation of the world confirms this insight. So, to claim that some other manner is better does require answering that question, if it is better then why aren’t people already using it?
Sure, it’s possible that there is a good reason why not. But we do need to know what it is.