Monday, January 18, 2016

Walking With Others

I am walking the length of a marathon today as part of my training for the Comrades Marathon in late May. I wanted a lengthy book to listen to while I did it, so am going through 'The Wealth of Nations' by Adam Smith.  A long book for a long walk.

It is interesting that his introduction of the idea of the Invisible Hand is much more of a defence of the individual in the context of a community, than of the profit motive. It is a great illustration of what I call the 'Postrel Problem' since Virginia Postrel's 'The Future and It's Enemies' helped the penny to drop in my mind.

Quite often we don't understand even our own worlds. Yet we have a better understanding than anyone else. The skill of then being able to communicate our world is often asking far too much. The further decision making gets pushed away from those who understand communities, the less likely they are to make sense. They lose the tacit knowledge that comes from being in the thick of it. Smith talks of a world where various factors lead to people living in the areas where they are commercially active. This means they understand the areas. They care about the area. This understanding gives them an advantage, and 'the individual hand' leads to better decision making than if any large, over-arching decisions were made by people who 'knew better'.

Accepting that it is difficult/impossible to know people's lives better than them is possibly the key lesson we have had to learn. Building a better world comes not from imposing lessons we have learnt on others, but walking with them. Partnering with them. Learning from them. 
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