A diverse number of free citizens will make better economic and political decisions than a small number of ‘experts’.
"No One In This World, So Far As I Know, Has Ever Lost Money By Underestimating The Intelligence Of The Great Masses Of The Plain People."
- H L Mencken
“Madness Is Rare In Individuals - But In Groups It Is The Rule.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Many elite thinkers have always despised the views of the majority but James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds has become an articulate cheerleader for the idea that “All of us know more than any one of us does”. Surowiecki’s idea powers the vision of ConservativeHome.com. The revitalisation of conservatism shouldn’t be the project of an unrepresentative few but the work of many. Every page on this site encourages visitor comments. This site succeeds insofar as you and other members of the 'Tory webroots' improve this definition and every other conservativehome.com feature.
“When a contestant on the show is stumped by a question, he has a couple of choices in asking for help: the audience or someone he's designated as an expert. The experts do a reasonable job: They get the answer right 65% of the time. But the audience is close to perfect: It gets the answer right 91% of the time, even though it's made up of people who have nothing better to do than sit in a TV studio”.
Numerous other anecdotes leaven Surowiecki’s book but his argument is best made by his analyses of successful phenomena like market economies and the Google search engine. Free market economies work better than command economies because the wisdom of every market player – consumers, workers, inventors etc - is utilised. Google has become the world’s most successful search engine by rating webpages according to the number of other sites that link to them.
When crowds go wrong
Surowiecki readily concedes that some ‘crowds’ make bad decisions. Stock market bubbles and a lynch mob’s idea of justice are two good examples of unwise crowds. ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ suggests four things are needed to avoid groupthink and other examples of destructive group dynamics. These things are:
- DIVERSITY so that multiple information sources are utilised;
- DECENTRALISATION so that no individual dictates the thinking process;
- DECISION-MAKING ABILITY so that a collective verdict emerges; and
- SELF-CONFIDENCE of every member of the crowd so that they don’t worry what other crowd members think of them.