… is from page 11 of Robert Higgs’s excellent 1971 book, The Transformation of the American Economy: 1865-1914 :
Economic growth does not just happen, however. Its gains are the product of deliberate human efforts.
Bob’s observation here might at first appear to be trivially true. But it isn’t. The reason is that far too many people regard the total amount of wealth on the globe as being some store of stuff the existence of which is largely independent of human creativity, risk-taking, and effort. No other plausible conclusion about people’s understanding of wealth is possible given the content and tenor of many discussions of public policy. Income and wealth are to be “redistributed” from the allegedly less-deserving to the allegedly more-deserving through government policies such as hikes in minimum wages, caps on CEO pay, export subsidies, import tariffs, high marginal tax rates on “the rich,” and schemes to increase the unionization of workers. Only people who regard wealth as either existing independently of human activity or (what is pretty much the same thing) produced in total quantities that are largely invariant to economic institutions and incentives speak as if the “distribution” of wealth or of incomes in market economies is a “problem” that warrants serious attention.