… is from pages 178-179 of Tim Harford’s 2008 volume, The Logic of Life:
Three hundred million people [American consumers] are losing from the protection for the sugar industry, and fifty thousand are gaining, with most of the gains going to a very small elite.
That seems an extraordinary and irrational outcome for a democratic society to produce, but the apparent paradox should not be quite so confusing. As we’ve seen in earlier chapters, individually rational behavior does not necessarily lead to a socially rational outcome. As a voter, you can be excused for being rationally ignorant of how you’re being hosed by the sugar industry: Why bother making the effort to understand the issue and find out which candidates at the next election are opposed to sugar subsidies? You might be seething with righteous indignation, but your vote would likely have no effect whatsoever. Even if it did penetrate your rational ignorance that sugar tariffs are costing you six dollars a year in higher grocery bills, how much do you care? Would you change your vote as a result?
Public-choice economics is the science that exposes the unscientific foundations of faith in government.