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Quotation of the Day…

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…. is from page 50 of the first edition of Harold Winter’s 2005 book, Trade-Offs [2]:

Actually, it is easy to identify several benefits of smoking, the most important of which is that smokers enjoy doing it.  The more daunting task is to argue that there are no benefits to an activity that hundreds of millions of people throughout the world undertake daily.

Economists – and especially those who are influenced by the Austrian tradition – take quite seriously the subjectivity of human preferences.  Jones ought not presume that he is a better judge of what is ‘best’ for Smith than is Smith.  This reality does not mean that Smith is an especially good judge of what is good for himself.  Rather, it means that, under nearly all circumstances, Jones is so unlikely to be better than Smith at knowing what is ‘best’ for Smith that Jones has no business butting into Smith’s business if the only point of doing so is to improve Smith’s well-being.  The relative weights that Smith attaches to the various costs and benefits of some activity (say, smoking) and the different variables that Smith regards as relevant costs and benefits of that activity likely differ from the relative weights that Jones attaches to those various costs and benefits and from the set of effects that Jones regards as relevant costs and benefits.

In short, people should mind their own business.

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