Disciplined pluralism will help us to find out what works ! ‘Evaluation in the field is necessary,’ says the economist Esther Duflo, ‘. . . because intuition, however sophisticated and however well grounded in existing theory and prior related evidence, is often a very poor guide to what will happen in reality.’
In a political and economic context, John Kay advocates an experimental approach that he calls ‘disciplined pluralism’.
The pluralist part is to try more than one thing at once; the discipline is to stop doing, or change, those that fail. It sounds simple enough. But since it involves admitting at the outset that we do not know what the best answer will be, it’s rarer than it could be. ‘Disciplined pluralism’ is what he says markets do genuinely well, and it is about as quietly pragmatic a justification for markets as you will find. We do not have to believe that they are just, or natural, and we don’t have to believe in the collective wisdom of all those who call themselves free-marketeers – but markets do experiment without end. They continually test new products, new services, new ways of working. That is their pluralism. Those that fail, fail – and are discontinued; that is their discipline. It is a compelling characterization, sensibly unheroic.
Notes from Michael Blastland’s book “The Hidden Half.”