Taken on its own terms, pragmatism’s folly is that it separates intelligence from wisdom. Its greatest sins are arrogance and deceit, including self-deceit. It is arrogant because it assumes the individual—particularly the expert—can know everything he needs to know without reference to received wisdom, historical precedent, tradition, dogma, etc. The pragmatists particularly loathed history, because it was a storehouse of old thinking with no relevance for the new age of science, slide rules, and data. Tricked by what they saw out their windows, they assumed that human nature had an expiration date—and that date was yesterday. “I speak in dispraise of dusty learning, and in disparagement of the historical technique,” boasted Stuart Chase, the brain truster who reportedly gave the New Deal its name and yearned for an “economic dictatorship” in the United States, “Are our plans wrong? Who knows? Can we tell from reading history? Hardly.”

“Pragmatism’s deceit comes in the form of actually believing this nonsense. There is a book screaming to be written on how the twentieth—and now twenty-first—century can be understood as a world-historical struggle not between Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, as is so often claimed, but between Hayek and John Dewey. Hayek, more than anyone else, illuminated the knowledge problem. Simply put: No one person can ever know enough. Planners who think they can process all of the data from disparate sources across vast expanses of geography and culture are, quite simply, educated fools. The planners of the New Deal had convinced themselves that they were smart enough to grind out any problem so long as they had enough data. Worse, in their contempt for the “disorganized” character of capitalism, they were deeply hostile to markets and the informational power of prices. When prices went in the wrong direction the New Dealers took it upon themselves to out think the market. Hence the great pig slaughter of September 1933, when the government ordered the killing of six million pigs in a time of deprivation.”

“Hayek explained, and not just in the realm of economics, that knowledge is communal and collective. It is bound up in, and communicated by, traditions, customs, laws, prices, even language. There’s a lot of philosophical and epistemological overlap between Hayek’s philosophy and the pragmatists’—in terms of how we know and learn things as individuals. But on this core point the two could not be more different. Hayek understood that markets are collective, cooperative endeavors precisely because individuals are empowered to make their own decisions. Dewey believed the only way we could have a collective, cooperative system was if we took away the individual’s ability to make his own choices. Citizens needed to be forced to become the kind of citizens Dewey believed would be productive. “Social arrangements, laws, institutions… are means of creating individuals.… Individuality in a social and moral sense is something to be wrought out,” Dewey wrote.27”

“Hence, the great irony: Hayek, one of the greatest champions of individual liberty and economic freedom the world has ever known, believed that knowledge was communal. Dewey, the champion of socialism and collectivism, believed that knowledge was individual. Hayek’s is a philosophy that treats individuals as the best judges of their own self-interests, which in turn yield staggering communal cooperation. Dewey’s was the philosophy of a giant, Monty Pythonesque crowd shouting on cue, “We’re All Individuals!”

“If asked, I could offer a rousing indictment of Dewey’s political ideology. He didn’t like America very much, and his writings often have a whiff of anti-Americanism to them. He often seemed to think everyone was doing things better “over there,” and over there could mean just about anywhere not here. He was certainly convinced that America was backward because it remained embarrassingly committed to what he called “ragged individualism.” Indeed, as much as any one man could, he popularized the notion that “rights” are a fiction. “Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology,” he insisted. Rights can only be properly understood as tools of “organized social control” via a “socialized economy.” Heck, humans are “nothing in themselves,” according to Dewey. Experts under the authority of the state must be tasked with creating worthwhile men.”

Excerpt From: Jonah Goldberg. “The Tyranny of Clichés.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-tyranny-of-clich%C3%A9s/id479439268