Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 15, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics, Reality Is Not Optional

… is from page 307 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan‘s 1977 paper “Political Equality and Private Property,” as this paper is reprinted in Moral Science and Moral Order (2001), Vol. 17 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan (link added):

As Knut Wicksell wisely pointed out nearly eighty years ago, most economists talk as if they are advising  a benevolent despot.  But, of course, such a despot is nonexistent.  Governments embody the choices and the actions of quite ordinary people, from voters who exercise their ultimate political rights of franchise through legislative representatives who act for voters and for themselves, to bureaucrats who actually carry out policy decisions, including some of their own.  The complex structure that is government cannot readily be controlled at any level, and any target is likely to be missed.

DBx: Although very few people expressly disagree with the observation that human beings acting politically are no less self-interested, no less poorly informed, no less subject to psychological quirks, and, generally, no less imperfect than are human beings acting privately and commercially, nearly everyone who identifies some problem (real or imaginary) with reality and who then proposes that government intervene to ‘correct’ this problem treats government as rather like an earthly god – at least when that government is controlled by one’s preferred political party.

(Pictured here is Wicksell.)


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