Friday, June 16, 2017

Oakeshott on "Skin in the Game"

Besides antifragility, another theme Nassim Taleb has been stressing of late is "skin in the game": the idea that people who face the consequences of their actions are more likely both to learn and to behave responsibly, than people who are shielded from such consequences.

Of course, Taleb is smart enough and educated enough to know that this is not an entirely new idea, and that he is expanding upon the intimations of earlier thinkers here. Even so, it was interesting to see Michael Oakeshott sound this motif so clearly in "Rational Conduct":

"And politics is a field of activity peculiarly subject to the lure of this 'rational' ideal. If you start by being merely 'intelligent' about a boiler or an electrical generator you are likely to be pulled up short by an explosion: but in politics all that happens is war and chaos, which you do not immediately connect with your error."

The plumber you call to fix your boiler has "skin in the game": if all he possesses is an abstract theory about boilers (what Oakeshott calls being "merely 'intelligent'") he will suffer the consequence of his lack of practical know-how himself, sooner or later, and most likely sooner. But the theoretical politician enamored of "regime change" can successively wreck the nations of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and still regularly secure $250,000 speaking fees.

8 comments:

  1. "…the idea that people who face the consequences of their actions are more likely both to learn and to behave responsibly, than people who are shielded from such consequences."

    I am incredibly skeptical of this argument.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not kidding. My interpretation of this statement may not be the same as yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you drive just as carefully:
      1) Driving a real car; and
      2) Driving a video game car?

      Delete
  3. No. I drive differently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which would confirm what Oakeshott and Taleb claim.

      Delete
    2. Not the way I'm looking at it.

      Delete
    3. Then you are looking at it incorrectly.

      Delete

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