A major part of the knowledge problem that Congress faces, and, for that matter, any of us, is what's seen and what's unseen. In the case of Social Security, what's seen are the beneficiaries with a monthly check. What's not seen are the outcomes that might have been had people not been taxed for Social Security. According to the National Council for Capital Formation, Social Security lowers private saving and investment and, as a result, GDP is at least five percent lower than it otherwise would be. Moreover, had people been able to use the money for private retirement plans, they'd earn much more than the paltry sum Social Security pays out. The same principle applies to CAFE standards. What's seen are cars getting more miles per gallon. What's unseen, or the connection not made, are the thousands of Americans killed as a result of the less crash-worthy cars produced as a result of congressional mandates.
Another example of the seen/unseen problem is the Bush administration's 2002 steel tariffs. The tariffs' seen beneficiaries were steel industry executives, stockholders and the approximately 1,700 steelworker jobs saved. According to the Consuming Industries Trade Action Association, higher steel prices, resulting from the tariffs, caused thousands of job losses in the steel-using industries. Since companies that used steel had to pay higher prices, they became less competitive domestically and internationally.
Each of us is faced with the knowledge and the seen and unseen problems. I believe that most Americans would see themselves in a much better position of determining what's in our own best interests than politicians, who are mostly concerned with re-election. At least I hope that's the case.