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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 154 of my late colleague Jim Buchanan‘s profoundly important 1986 essay “The Potential for Tyranny in Politics as Science” (reprinted in Moral Science and Moral Order, Vol. 17 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan):

When politics is wrongly interpreted as being analogous to science, as a truth-discovery process, coercion may find moral legitimization for those who claim enlightenment.  By contrast, when politics is rightly interpreted as a process for settling conflicts among interests, which are acknowledged to be individually derived, those who seek to impose preferred solutions do so without claim to moral superiority.

Especially widespread among intellectuals and “Progressives” is the notion that there exists a “correct” way for society to operate.  Such people believe that social organization is an issue of engineering, one with a single best “solution” – and that this “solution” must be discovered and implemented in the same way that all engineering solutions are discovered and implemented, namely, by the objective brain-power and design of the engineer.  For society or the economy to be engineered requires, of course, a grand overseeing engineer: the state, advised by the best and the brightest who are equipped with all the latest data-gathering and processing techniques, as well as with the latest and most advanced engineering tools.

As Jim Buchanan points out – in the same way as has Hayek, Mises, and nearly all other thoughtful (classical) liberals – conceiving of social organization as an engineering problem, and of the state as the engineer, is not only factually mistaken, it paves the way for tyranny.  The reason is that if this social-engineering view of economy and society were correct, anyone who disagrees with “the experts” advising the social-engineer hard at work to design and implement a good society is an enemy of The People.