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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 305 of George Selgin’s important and meticulously researched 2008 volume, Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821 (citation excluded):

Theories are shaped by experience, which they then serve, more often than not, to rationalize.  “So much more does a realized fact influence us than an imagined one,” [Herbert] Spencer wrote, “that had the baking and sale of bread been hitherto carried on by government-agents, probably the supply of bread by private enterprise would scarcely be conceived possible, much less advantageous.”  Spencer’s remark is a salutary rejoinder to conservative remonstrations against hyperrationalism.  It reminds us that, much as people might exaggerate the power of reason while underestimating the wisdom embodied in what Burke termed “ancient principles,” that they can also err the other way, treating a principle (or practice) that’s sufficiently timeworn as necessarily sound.  Back in [Matthew] Boulton’s day, a well-used roadway eventually became a set of ruts from which carriages could hardly veer.  Well-established government policies, it seems, can similarly confine economic thought.