Argument by Institutional Assertion

On institutional incompetence and what to do about it

Prateek Goorha

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Trusting Institutions, No Longer

The remark above may rank low in the pantheon of Balaji S. Srinivasan’s unfailingly thought-inspiring tweets, but I think there is enough to unpack in here to deserve a short essay.

Specifically, it gives impetus for two related thoughts. First, are all proclamations made by institutions to be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism by any independently-minded thinker? Second, if we can identify features of institutions that predispose them towards making faulty assertions, can we use that information to reform institutions or build better replacements?

Regarding the first, suppose we adopt the policy that no institution deserves our trust and, consequently, no assertion made by any institution should be taken at face value.

Opponents to this viewpoint are in the majority, and even to the most serious thinkers among them, such a policy, prima facie, seems overly reductive at the least. It runs the risk of committing a type-II error, whereby we would willy-nilly reject information merely because it has been presented to us by an institution? Not trusting institutions would become dogma! If every reporter‘s column in the New York Times

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Prateek Goorha

Economist. Author. A flaneur who loves Bitcoin, coffee and cricket.