Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 22, 2017

in Politics, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 4 of James Buchanan’s Foreword to Gordon Tullock’s pioneering 1965 book, The Politics of Bureaucracy, as this book was reissued in 2005 as part of volume 6 (Bureaucracy) of the Selected Works of Gordon Tullock:

Adam Smith and the economists have been, and Tullock will be, accused of discussing a world peopled with evil and immoral men.  Men “should not” be either “getting and spending” or “politicking.”  Such accusations, and they never cease, are almost wholly irrelevant.  Some social critics simply do not like the world as it is, and they refuse to allow the social scientist, who may not like it either, to analyze reality.  To the scientist, of course, analysis must precede prescription, and prescription must precede improvement.  The road to Utopia must start from here, and this road cannot be transversed until here is located, regardless of the beautiful descriptions of yonder.

DBx: Politics is a human activity.  The state is a human institution.  People whose sensibilities cause them to dislike self-interested behavior overlook these realities and too often reject the market and embrace politics and the state.  They typically do so because they see self-interested behavior in the market, which is out in the open, but are blind to self-interested behavior in politics, which is shrouded in secular mysticism, flags, soaring yet empty fancy talk, ornate buildings, and unceasing wishful – and frequently even delusional – thinking.


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