Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 25, 2014

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics, Reality Is Not Optional

… is from pages 104-105 of the 1976 Liberty Fund edition of Sir Henry Sumner Maine’s insightful 1885 volume, Popular Government:

On the complex questions of politics, which are calculated in themselves to task to the utmost all the powers of the strongest minds, but are in fact vaguely conceived, vaguely stated, dealt with for the most part in the most haphazard manner by the most experienced statesmen, the common determination of a multitude is a chimerical assumption; and indeed, if it were really possible to extract an opinion upon them from a great mass of men, and to shape the administrative and legislative acts of a State upon this opinion as a sovereign command, it is probable that the most ruinous blunders would be committed, and all social progress would be arrested.  The truth is, that the modern enthusiasts for Democracy make one fundamental confusion.  They mix up the theory, that the Demos is capable of volition, with the fact, that it is capable of adopting the opinions of one man or of a limited number of men, and of founding directions to its instruments upon them.

Kenneth Arrow cannot have said it better.

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