Accepting the consequences of our uncertainty

Graham Hillard explains at National Review Online why we all might benefit if we accept the uncertainty in our lives.

Fresh from the people-lie-to-survey-takers department, another gem: One in four Americans believes that their house is haunted. Not that ghosts are real, mind you. Not even that haunted houses exist. No, 25 percent of our fellow citizens report that their actual current residence is home to a poltergeist. …

… The fact is that belief, like all of the other abstractions with which we describe the workings of the human mind, is ultimately unmeasurable. We hardly know ourselves what we really think. …

… We live, after all, in an age of extremes. Our opponents, we tell ourselves, are not just wrong but depraved, not just mistaken but traitors, conspirators, Nazis. One would think that so regularly encountering the fact of our own ignorance would make us modest (if nothing else, globalization and the existence of the Web should have taught us just how little we know), but something like the opposite has proven true. Instead of embracing subtlety and acknowledging that hugely complicated policy questions are indeed hugely complicated, we have stamped our feet and insisted that every answer is simple and that only a fool or a villain would dissent.

How’s that working out for us?

As a reasonably well-informed political observer, I believe that the migrant “caravan” making its way toward the nation’s border represents a threat to our security, that the President’s rhetoric is not to blame for the acts of madmen, and that Brett Kavanaugh was innocent of the charges against him. …

… I believe these things, but what do I really know? Very little, I’m willing to admit. There are simply too many variables, too many unknowns. What I can’t have is certainty. So perhaps I — we — should calm down a bit.

Those who adopt Hillard’s attitude might have an easier time avoiding Hayek’s “fatal conceit.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...