Nathan Goodman, at the Liberty Minded blog, pulls the Hayekian knowledge problem out of the pricing field and applies it in the field of social relations. Well, technically speaking, Goodman employs just the tacit knowledge elements of Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society” article, but he uses it to make a good point: some of the knowledge needed to promote social interaction is distributed and not readily articulated or transferred; this kind of knowledge comes from personal experience in particular times and places; to the extent that my experiences differ from yours, I may not understand and you may find it difficult or impossible to convey to me the full nature of your experiences or the explain how it shapes your relationships in society.
For Goodman, this means that men listening to women talk about male privilege may not be in a position to understand the breadth and depth of the experiences women have experienced. Women, talking to men about male privilege, may not themselves understand and certainly may not be able to articulate the breadth and depth of their experiences of gender discrimination. Knowledge of social privilege itself will be highly distributed and sometimes tacit. Goodman continues with a discussion of disability and other differences from which privilege can emerge, and how, when government gets involved the problems can easily be made worse.
This isn’t, he said, an argument to silence critics, but an attempt to get people to recognize the limits of their knowledge. Libertarians especially, he said, “should have the humility to check our privilege, to listen to oppressed people who discuss their experiences, and to respect oppressed peoples’ rights to direct their own struggles for liberation.”