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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 289 of Vol. 19 (Ideas, Persons, and Events [2001]) of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan; specifically, it’s from Jim’s 1996 essay “Adam Smith as Inspiration”:

How well are Adam Smith’s ideas understood today, more than two centuries after their presentation?  As surprising and as frustrating as it may be to many of us, we find the selfsame mercantilist ideas that Smith attacked being propounded daily by our politicians and pundits.  In this respect alone, economics is categorically different from its natural science counterparts.  We do not learn the principles of political economy in the same way that we learn the principles of physics.  Despite the empirical evidence that we can observe, we continue to think, and to behave, as if we can, through political action, subvert elementary laws.

Faith in the power of consciously instigated collective action to craft society to our liking  – especially when that collective action is backed by force that is at least formally under the direction of democratically controlled leaders – is a religious dogma that has caused no end of misfortune and misery.