Science and democracy have always been twins.

A simple statement with a magnitude of implications.  From an essay in today’s NYT by Dennis Overby:

It is no coincidence that these are the same qualities that make for democracy and that they arose as a collective behavior about the same time that parliamentary democracies were appearing. If there is anything democracy requires and thrives on, it is the willingness to embrace debate and respect one another and the freedom to shun received wisdom. Science and democracy have always been twins.

Then, in the Post, an article concerning Wayne Clough’s vision to make the holdings of the Smithsonian available to all using the internet.  The curators of the Smithsonian are having some difficulty understanding what their role will be if everything is available for anyone to see.  The gatekeepers ask, “Who will guarantee the quality of knowledge?”  To which, Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, replies:

“Is it our job to be smart and be the best? Or is it our job to share knowledge?” Anderson asked.

Sharing knowledge, sharing information — that’s what makes democracy work.  And, sharing information makes markets more efficient.  I think the philosophers and economists can agree on that point.

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1 Comment

Filed under Government, Information, Market Failure, public values

One response to “Science and democracy have always been twins.

  1. Thomas Wargo

    Dear Sirs,

    The title is misleading. So too the argument(s) that — Oh, “parliamentary democracy” — had anything to do with the ascendancy of science or vice versa. The only thing to be said with certainty is that a lot of other important things also happened at around the same time (s). The only thing they all have in common is the alignment of the planets, and the trends and themes thus indicated. It would take a suspension of ones worldview for most people to check it out. Few have the intellectual courage.

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