Henderson on Extending Hayek's Insight
By David Henderson
Hayek’s conclusion about the importance of local knowledge can be extended far beyond markets into many parts of our lives. In this essay, I summarize Hayek’s argument and then apply it to some good things that happened on September 11, 2001, and to two cases after 9/11–the case of the “shoe bomber” and that of the “underpants bomber”–when airline passengers acted together to save themselves from terrorists.
This is from David R. Henderson, “Extending Hayek’s Insights about Local Knowledge,” one of the two Econlib Feature Articles for December.
I thank my sometimes co-authors Jeff Hummel and Charley Hooper for valuable comments. Jeff found a huge problem with one of my applications of Hayek’s insight, pointing out that I was right historically but wrong to use it in this context. Charley pointed out that a generalization I tried to make in a previous draft was a bridge too far.
Interestingly, noted Levin, after 9/11, FAA officials started to write a set of procedures for getting planes on the ground in case something like 9/11 happened again. But then they stopped. Levin quoted Frank Hatfield, the FAA’s eastern region chief: “A lot of things were done intuitively, things that you can’t write down in a textbook or you can’t train somebody to do.” Indeed. Hayek’s insight strikes again.
P.S. Remember my talk tonight at San Jose State University.