delanceyplace.com 12/7/06 - conventional wisdom

In today's encore excerpt - John Kenneth Galbraith on 'conventional wisdom' and suggests that it is often a poor surrogate for truth:

"It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyperliterate economic sage, who coined the phrase 'conventional wisdom.' He did not consider it a compliment. 'We associate truth with convenience,' he wrote, 'with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.' Economic and social behavior, Galbraith continued, 'are complex, and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring. Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.'

"So the conventional wisdom in Galbraith's view must be simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting—though not necessarily true. It would be silly to argue that the conventional wisdom is never true. But noticing where the conventional wisdom may be false—noticing, perhaps, the contrails of sloppy or self-interested thinking—is a nice place to start asking questions."


author:

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

title:

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

publisher:

Harper Perennial

date:

Copyright 2005, 2006, 2009 by Steven D. Levitt

pages:

85-86
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