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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 88 of Randy Simmons’s 2011 Revised Edition of his and the late William Mitchell’s superb 1994 volume, Beyond Politics (original emphasis):

Perhaps the fundamental political fact – one characterized by inexpedient and untimely consequences – is the separation of cost and benefit considerations.  The fact that few persons are forced to weight them against one another before making policy choices enables and encourages people to seek additional gains at collective expense.

Indeed so.  With the benefits of choices (be they material or ideological) internalized on the political choosers and the costs forced (“externalized”) on others, political choices are bound to be bad.  (The source of political failures identified here by Randy is, by the way, analytically identical to the source of market failures used by economists such as George Akerlof, Paul Krugman, and Joseph Stiglitz to argue in favor of vigorous government intervention to correct market failures.  It’s astonishing to me that these economists, when making their policy recommendations, typically ignore this source of government failure.  Such economists – like many others – believe in miracles.)

The “fundamental political fact” described above by Randy explains why politicians (with the encouragement of many pundits) so cavalierly put the livelihoods of the most vulnerable workers at risk with minimum-wage legislation (in the bizarre hope that raising employers’ costs of employing such workers will do nothing to make the employment of such workers less attractive to employers).  This “fundamental political fact” explains why Congress is on the verge of reauthorizing that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (in the bizarre hope that forcing taxpayers to subsidize foreign buyers of American exports will enrich Americans).  This “fundamental political fact” explains a great deal of the predations that occur routinely not only in Washington, DC, but in capital cities around the world.