Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 28, 2017

in Hubris and humility

… is from page 200 of the 2016 Mercatus Center re-issue of my late colleague Don Lavoie’s penetrating 1985 volume National Economic Planning: What Is Left? (original emphasis):

The knowledge problem constitutes a challenge to planning advocates which could be put in the form of the rude question: “If you’re so smart about investment, why don’t you just go out and make yourself a profit by investing?”  This may sound not only rude but irrelevant, but it strikes at the heart of the basic difficulty with planning.  Both [Robert] Reich and [Felix] Rohatyn, we have seen, rest their case, at bottom, on their expertise.  They are touted by their supporters as “financial wizards” who know how to guide investment.

DBx: A significant portion of alleged market ‘failures’ and ‘imperfections’ – when these in fact exist in reality – are opportunities for individuals who notice them not only to earn profits by exploiting these failures and imperfections, but also at the same time to help bring market outcomes closer to the ideal.  Examples of such alleged ‘failures’ and ‘imperfections’ are monopsony power in labor markets, monopoly power in output markets, and employment discrimination against women and minorities.  Politicians, pundits, preachers, popes, professors, and other “experts” are forever asserting that this ‘failure’ or that ‘imperfection’ must be ‘corrected’ or ‘addressed’ with state coercion.  Yet these confident “experts” are almost never confident enough to put their own money where their mouths are; they arrogantly want to put only other people’s money (and lives) where their mouths are.

And as I’ve pointed out before at Cafe Hayek, especially astonishing is the fact that, when the typical such “expert” is asked to put his or her own money where his or her mouth is, that “expert” responds (usually self-righteously!) that he or she hasn’t the skill or expertise to engage in such real-world activity.  Yet we are nevertheless supposed to trust such an “expert’s” assessment of market reality – an assessment offered by someone who admits that he or she is personally incapable of operating entrepreneurially in the very market about which he or she poses as an “expert.”

Such arrogance and officiousness would be unbelievable were it not so commonplace.


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