… is from page 215 of Michael Huemer’s excellent 2013 volume, The Problem of Political Authority:
On those rare occasions when social movements inspire large segments of the public to become involved in politics, it is because some large, glaring injustice stirs our passions. But no one will become passionate about monitoring a thousandth of the daily activities of government. To propose that the general public voluntarily sacrifice large portions of their lives to the task of studying such tedious matters as the provisions of the latest farm bill, all so that each can have a microscopic chance of improving a microscopic fraction of government policies, is at least as utopian as proposing that we all simply agree henceforth to work selflessly for the good of society.
David Friedman puts the same matter this way. And here’s Walter Lippmann’s expression of this reality. Dwight Lee also often makes this important point (although I can’t now find any links to this point as expressed by Dwight).
The indisputable truth of this point is one reason why a great deal of the superficially seeming “scientific” or “rational” case for discretionary government intervention – be it intervention into economic and social matters or into foreign affairs – is, in scientific reality, a grand and illogical superstition. The very same problem that the superstitious identify as the key justification for government action causes, with at least equal force, that same government action to produce results that are at least as bad as those of the private actions that it displaces. And yet nearly all acclaimed “reality-based” advocates of government intervention – advocates such as Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren (the list is long) – either ignore this reality altogether or fly past it, waving their academic wands wildly, as if it is a problem of only tertiary significance.