Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 12, 2017

in Economics

… is from page 171 of my colleague Richard Wagner’s superb new intellectual biography of Jim Buchanan, James M. Buchanan and Liberal Political Economy (2017) (link added):

Peter Boettke (2012) explains that Buchanan, like Frank Knight and Henry Simons, regarded economics as a relatively simple science of great public significance.  That science, moreover, could be easily manipulated and distorted in the service of special pleadings of all sorts, and with proper economics serving mostly to explain why the political promises and speeches of the day typically are more sources of problems than of solutions.

DBx: The economist’s greatest role is to expose the poor logic and fallacies that infect so much public discussion of markets and of politics.  It’s not rocket science.  It involves always asking, almost to the point of being annoying, questions such as

“Who will pay for that?”

“How will people respond and adjust to your scheme, beyond the responses and adjustments that you assert will occur?”

“If your scheme is so splendid, why has no one yet attempted to put it into operation?  And why do you demand that the state force people to conform to your scheme?”

“What makes you think that you know better than Smith what’s best for Smith?”

“If private markets ‘fail’ because of asymmetric or information, moral hazard, adverse selection, human psychological quirks, or other ‘imperfections,’ what is it about government that enables political operatives to overcome these ‘imperfections’?”

“Why is it worse for a worker to lose a job when his neighbor buys a foreign-made car than when his neighbor buys a used car?”

“As compared to what?”  “As compared to what?”  “As compared to what?”


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