Criticism and the practice of truth

Freer than less free societies, even if not truly free like Western societies, people become accustomed to debate and criticism, which pushes them toward truth and thus, at least in the long run, economic efficiency. This is a major advantage over less free and unfree societies. This observation should also hold for war, at least ceteris paribus—for example, a war given equal public support.

An information has been released The Wall Street Journal A classified report prepared by the Pentagon illustrates this point. The subject is the military reasons and circumstances behind the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer (“Reviewing the Pentagon’s Role in Afghanistan,” July 18, 2022):

A preliminary draft of the Pentagon’s assessment, completed by authors affiliated with the National Defense University, was submitted in March. …

The problem with the report submitted in March wasn’t that it was too complicated, [an anonymous senior defense official] stated “a draft document was not returned because it was believed to be too critical; You will get nothing from an after-action analysis if it is not critical enough” said the officer [my emphasis].

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had earlier announced:

We want to make sure that we learn every lesson that can be learned from this experience.

The information may, of course, be false or embellished, but there is a good chance that it is accurate because it is true to the general standard of reporting. The Wall Street Journal. The data is however not surprising: the freer a society, the more valued and expected criticism; And more officials have trouble hiding the truth, if only because it is likely to be leaked. A free press plays an important role—and it should be noted that a free press is not one that says what you think it should, but a set of media that doesn’t prevent power from saying what they want). Nothing is perfect, of course, but most things are more imperfect in an unfree society.

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