… is from page 112 of George Stigler’s 1975 collection, The Citizen and the State: Essays on Regulation; here, Stigler is criticizing mainstream welfare economics – that is, that branch of economics that studies the performance of markets relative to some ideal (and the ideal is nearly always that which can be imagined being implemented by an all-knowing and benevolent state):
We have a list, a long list, of market failures. They should be corrected if possible, and there are only two alternatives to the market: the state, and prayer. It turns out that the two were merged in one.
Put differently, too many economists believe in miracles.