Arrogant – and Cowardly – Busybodies

by Don Boudreaux on March 15, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Man of System, Nanny State, Other People's Money, Seen and Unseen, Work

Here’s a letter to the New York Post:

You rightly criticize Pres. Obama for fancying that he knows better than do millions of diverse individual workers, entrepreneurs, and consumers what are the best details of the countless contracts that they voluntarily arrange and agree to for themselves in the competitive marketplace (“Obama, Inc.,” March 15).

Such hubris is typical of politicians, professors, pundits, and preachers who demand government interventions such as minimum-wage legislation.  None of these people put their own money where their mouths are by, for example, starting their own firms to hire low-skilled workers at higher wages.  (Indeed, these people get offended when someone suggests that they actually stake their own resources on their ideas.)  Unlike, say, an entrepreneur who makes offers of employment to workers who are free to accept the offers or to reject them - that is, an entrepreneur who stakes something of her own in order to persuade others to voluntarily accept her offers - people such as Mr. Obama simply simple-mindedly demand and command, with the costs of their decrees forced upon others.  There’s no better evidence that the policy ideas of such people deserve no respect.

H.L. Mencken was spot-on correct when he observed that “[t]he kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic.”*

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Knopf, 1949), p. 623.​​

Policy ‘ideas’ such as minimum-wage legislation exhibit all the intellectual nuance, depth, care, and wisdom of two-year olds – yet such ideas parade in public as examples of deep thinking.  It’s bizarre.

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