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“Progressive” Pre-Smithian Economics

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Reading economist Alan Blinder’s apologia for Obamacare makes this economist sad (“Despite a Botched Rollout, the Health-Care Law Is Worth It,” Nov. 12).

In the 18th century, Adam Smith launched the discipline of economics by explaining that intentions are not results, and that the complexity of a real-world economy nearly always overwhelms and confounds the hubris-intoxicated “man of system” who aims to improve matters through government intervention.

More than 200 years later, Mr. Blinder – an economics professor at a premier university – judges Obamacare by its stated goals.  He simply assumes that Obamacare’s results will eventually reflect its designers’ intentions.  And in assuring your readers that this happy outcome will indeed come to pass, Mr. Blinder gives no hint of the mature, Smithian awareness that ‘men of system’ are never up to the task of successfully engineering a sector of the economy as large and as complex as health care.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030


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