… is from page 43 of my late colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1977 collection, Freedom in Constitutional Contract; specifically, it’s from Jim’s deeply insightful 1974 essay “Good Economics – Bad Law” (which is a review of the first edition of Richard Posner’s Economic Analysis of Law):
Attempts to shut off or to forestall trade when mutuality of gain exists encourage costly evasions. The very legality of society itself may be seriously eroded if those who make collective decisions fail to understand this elementary consequence of the economists’ teaching.
People who endorse government efforts to prevent or to otherwise obstruct adults from voluntarily trading – efforts manifested, for example, in the likes of minimum-wage legislation, tariffs, occupational-licensing restrictions, and drug prohibitions – unavoidably create artificial “winners” (such as those workers who manage to remain employed at the minimum wage) whose gains come at the expense of people upon whom losses are imposed by the interventions (such as those workers who lose their jobs, or whose jobs are made less agreeable, because of minimum-wage legislation). Such interventions are a cancer in the fabric of society – and this cancer is made no less debilitating by the good intentions of the economic witch-doctors who administer the poison.