… is from page 62 of my late Nobel laureate colleague Jim Buchanan’s pioneering February 1962 article in Economica, “Politics, Policy, and the Pigovian Margins,” as this article is reprinted in volume 1 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty:
Indeed, economists tend to be so enmeshed with efficiency notions that it seems extremely difficult for them to resist the ever-present temptation to propose yet more complex gimmicks and gadgets for producing greater “efficiency.”
As Jim suggests, it is deeply regrettable that so many of those people who are expert in the profession – economics – that traces its modern origins to the analysis and wisdom of Adam Smith have never learned, or have forgotten, Smith’s criticism of the hubris and ignorance of the man of system:
The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.