July 22, 2005 · Cass Sunstein
There’s another form of information aggregation that we haven’t discussed: traditionalism. Conservatives who like traditions often build on the work of Edmund Burke, who emphasized that each of us has a small stock of wisdom, and that traditions embody the wisdom of the many. In this way, there’s a link between Burke on the one hand and Condorcet on the other — and a less direct link between Burke and Hayek. Here’s a passage from Burke’s essay on the French Revolution:
“The science of government being therefore so practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution than any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree, for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes. . . . We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them.”
Burke’s claims have a lot of power; the problem is that some traditions may be a result of a cascade or group polarization (or worse).
In the meantime I’m wondering whether I’ll have the courage to say something about the Bob Dylan concert I recently attended.