The lead editorial in the NY Times today (“What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You“) addresses the question of the state’s role in the generation of public knowledge. The piece argues that congress should restore funding for census bureau projects that produce important economic data, noting, in reference to financial markets, that “the system cannot thrive without good and timely information.” True, no doubt in other sectors too. A question worth asking is whether the political actors who cut funding were aiming only at saving money or keeping government small or were responding to parties who have an interest in restricting the amount and quality of public information that’s out there. We can imagine two scenarios: (1) some actors prefer to function in an environment of relative public ignorance; (2) some actors don’t want the government to produce and supply information that could be sold for a profit.
We shall see.