Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 11, 2016

in Competition, Economics, Reality Is Not Optional

… is from page 3 of the 3rd edition (1972) of what is regarded by many (including me) to be the greatest economics textbook ever written, University Economics by Armen Alchian and William Allen; this is the opening paragraph of Chapter 1:

Ever since the fiasco in the Garden of Eden, most of what we get is by sweat, strain, and anxiety.  Two villains – nature and other people – prevent us from having all we want.  Nature is niggardly: it provides fewer resources than we could use, and much of what is available is made useful only by hard work.  As for other people, the problem stems not from malevolence: their wants and ours simple exceed what is available.  Do not suppose that if they were less greedy, more would be within our grasp.  Greed impels them to produce more, not only for themselves, but, miraculously, more for us, too – provided that productivity-inducing arrangements exist.

(I wish only that Alchian and Allen had used the term “Self-interest” in place of “Greed,” for self-interest is the moral sentiment about which they here speak.  Still, their meaning is clear and the message vital and central.)

Anyone who reads and masters even half of this remarkable book will be at least twice the economist as is any randomly chosen and credentialed economist who would today bump into you at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association.


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