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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 3 of Eric Hoffer’s 1979 volume, Before the Sabbath:

One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputation.

The best explanation, in my opinion, for why this sad state of affairs exists can be found in Geoff Brennan’s & Loren Lomasky’s pioneering 1993 volume, Democracy and Decision and in my colleague Bryan Caplan’s equally path-breaking 2007 volume, The Myth of the Rational Voter.

That reason is this: whenever people get to hold and express beliefs free of personal charge, or at a personal discount, they are prone to hold and express beliefs reached carelessly and seldom reconsidered in light of new evidence or arguments.  People in their capacities as intellectuals, voters, politicians, and government administrators each, individually, are called upon to express (and often to actually act upon) opinions the costs and benefits of which are spread our over the lives of many strangers.  (It’s the worst negative externality in reality.)  The privilege (as Hoffer sarcastically calls it) of getting to express opinions and to take actions that affect chiefly other people breeds, at best, carelessness and, more commonly, damaging opinions and policies – the destructiveness of all of which, sadly, is camouflaged by the stated good intentions of those who hold those opinions or who push those policies.


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