Piece Meal Social Engineering

Piece Meal/Iterative Social Engineering (Society Design)

term from Karl Popper

[Characteristics](http://web.archive.org/web/20070616014953/http://clublet.com/c/c/why?UtopianVsPiecemealSocial Engineering) of Utopian and Piecemeal Approaches to Policy

abstract on "Popper on Utilizing Knowledge: Piecemeal Social Engineering, Technological Warnings and Social Planning" by Herzl Baruch

relates to modularization (Loosely Coupled?)

Popper warned that economic intervention, even the piecemeal methods that he advocated will tend to increase the power of the state. "Interventionism is therefore extremely dangerous. This is not a decisive argument against it; state power must always remain a dangerous though necessary evil. But it should be a warning that if we relax our watchfulness, and if we do not strengthen our democratic institutions while giving more power to the state by interventionist "planning", then we may lose our freedom."

Cosma Shalizi notes danger:

  • Popper warned that economic intervention, even the piecemeal methods that he advocated will tend to increase the power of the state. "Interventionism is therefore extremely dangerous. This is not a decisive argument against it; state power must always remain a dangerous though necessary evil. But it should be a warning that if we relax our watchfulness, and if we do not strengthen our democratic institutions while giving more power to the state by interventionist "planning", then we may lose our freedom."

  • Joseph Stromberg writes Murray Rothbard, who had already given much thought to problems of methodology in the Social Science-s, saw the Reece Committee's critique of Empiricism as right on target. The kind of empirical research sponsored by the foundations (NGO-s) lent itself straightforwardly to endless demands for state expansion to "solve" newfound social problems. It was the downhill slide into the kind of "Piece MealSocial Engineering" called for by the Mr. Wizard and Social Democratic method guru of the period, Karl Popper, whose impressive writings undermined even F A Hayek. In this connection, I should mention Hans Hermann Hoppe's chapter on empiricism, which establishes beyond any doubt empiricism's role as the stalking horse of non-Soviet Socialism (A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, and Private Property (1989), "The Socialism of Social Engineering," pp. 95-125). Hoppe writes that "as soon as the idea of formulating a principled case either in favor of or against Socialism is dropped" and empiricism is taken up, it becomes impossible to make any case at all. Socialists will immunize all criticisms of specific policies by claiming that unknown "variables" have muddied the experimental waters. Had it not been for unusual sunspot activity or tornadoes in Arkansas, the price control on zinc might have been successful. (Hoppe, pp. 101-102.) The piecemeal socialist experimentation must go on.

Toon Vandevelde on Amartya Sen - More than most liberals, Sen wants to change the world. However, he is too much imbued with Economics to be a Utopia-n thinker. First, in his work on Social Choice, he strongly insists that one should not try to make people happy against their will. People's preferences should be taken seriously, although not just the Consumer preferences that can be derived from their market behaviour, but also the opinions they state in public debates. Second, economists typically refrain from devising great blueprints of the good society. They try to make problems manageable by dividing them up. If one piles up all the problems of the world, then the most profound pessimism seems to be unavoidable. Separating problems makes it possible to establish priorities and to go for Piece MealSocial Engineering. Overpopulation, for example, should be tackled by providing women with easy access to education and health care. The threat of a famine in a particular region should be overcome by offering jobs to the vulnerable part of the population, for instance, through a policy of Public Works. In this way Sen joins the line of thinkers who offer Pragmatic policy advice to the most abstract theoretical concepts.


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