by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Seth Mandel reviews for Commentary the recent memoir from Obama acolyte Samantha Power. Most of the review focuses on Power’s sacrifice of principle in order to maintain her high-profile job in a presidential administration.
But one quote suggests that Power came close to learning an important lesson for every politician and policymaker:
During my time in government, I came to better appreciate the constraints that stand in the way of making positive change. Even the most conscientious government decision-makers operate with shrouded and shifting fields of vision, deciding among wholly imperfect options. I felt the lasting damage caused by US government mistakes, particularly regarding the use of US military force. Irrespective of American intentions, the government’s sins of commission—but also those of omission—underscore the immense responsibility one takes on as a public servant, and the need for humility about one’s judgments.
It’s a short leap from recognition of “shrouded and shifting fields of vision” and “the need for humility” to Hayek’s warning about government officials’ fatal conceit. The humble public servant should realize that he (or she, in Power’s case) cannot possess enough information to make most of the decisions big-government advocates would like to make.