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    Known Unknowns

    Known Unknowns

    Watching Sean Hannity’s interview with Donald Rumsfeld last night reminded me of Rumsfeld’s “known- knowns, known-unknowns, and unknown-unknowns” statement during a press conference in 2002.  I use this construct in class to describe how to build a legal case (you build it around the known-knowns, just saved you about 50k in tuition):

    “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    The known-knowns are the things we usually argue over — we know them. The unknown-unknowns are more fun, but amount to speculation and often devolve into conspiracy theories.

    Much more interesting to me are present day known-unknowns, things we know we do not know.  Focusing on policy issues, what are some known unknowns?

    Let me start:

    • When we will reach the tipping point in national debt.
    • The number of years it will take us to recover from the increasing restrictions on offshore drilling.
    • Whether and on what conditions the Obama administration will resupply Israel in the event of a full-scale Mideast war.
    • Whether it will be too late to reverse Obamacare if it takes two years until the U.S. Supreme Court rules the mandate to be unconstitutional.
    • The number of jobs which will not be created because of the sweeping scope of pending regulations.


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    So we have the known-knowns, the known-unknowns and the unknown-unknowns, but what about the unknown-knowns?

    "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." – Mark Twain

    And the ideologs in this administration are more bulletproof than Superman when it comes to the truth.

    From the socialist failures of Europe, Asia and Africa contrasted with Hong Kong to the current moment in the States contrasting California with Texas, their imperviousness to the truth is awe inspiring.

    What has been forgotten are unknown knowns – those things that are known but have some how become unknown (at least to policy makers). These include: if we stop drilling for oil in this country, we will be more dependent on foreign oil; price ceiling leads to shortages; if we pay people money to burn food (think ethanol), there will be less food for people to eat; etc.

    taleb nassim has made a living taking about unknown unknowns. There are Black Swans out there, events that will turn the world over for good or bad.
    thinking about specifics isn't the point. prepare by being fit. be efficient, remember Adam Smith and understand human nature can't be changed.

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