Saturday, January 31, 2004

'Everybody knows' is often wrong

William Pfaff writes in today's Globe OP-ED page:

THE IMPORTANT lesson from the Hutton Inquiry in London has only incidentally to do with the war in Iraq. It concerns the dangers of unanalyzed and unquestioned ideas, and the terrible power of what "everybody knows."

...When a president or prime minister invests in an idea, the weight of government is thrown behind it. Anyone who questions it then is attacked as "unsound," if not a professional contrarian or a crank.

...The American government, and with it much of the academic and journalistic communities, was seized with belief that Russia was being transformed into a capitalist and democratic society. Critics of this conviction were told they were mere unscientific "area specialists," rather than political scientists and economists in possession of universally valid principles of reform.

(Virtually the same simple-minded application of irrelevant American economic and social models now has begun in Coalition-controlled Iraq. Reconstruction of Iraq's stock market is being supervised by a 24-year-old Yale political science graduate, Class of 2001, with no previous knowledge in finance or markets.)

...There is no remedy for this problem except historical knowledge, which suggests intellectual skepticism toward convenient ideas and courage to speak what others deride. But none of that means that those with power will be convinced.

Could that be true? Why was the part about the 24 year old, inside parentheses? I wanted to find out more about this 24 year old. I determined that his name is Jay Hallen.

Google search - "Jay+Hallen"

- How a 24-year-old got a job rebuilding Iraq's stock market. - [ no longer online ]

- Iraq's bourse is in 24-year-old's hands.

I'd like to see the full story on that!

bourse - A stock exchange.

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