Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 23, 2016

in Complexity & Emergence, Hubris and humility, Other People's Money

… is from page 50 of Arnold Kling’s superb new book (2016), Specialization and Trade: A Re-introduction to Economics:

As outsiders, economists see some of the conditions in a market, but they omit other factors.  In that regard, economists are no different from other outsiders.  To the extent that there are outsiders who see a flaw in how the market serves consumers, those outsiders have the option of starting a business to address the problem.  That is what entrepreneurs do all the time, and they are the main engine of economic progress.

Yes.  And of course the same is true for entrepreneurs who see a flaw in how the market treats workers (and other resource suppliers).  These flaws are almost always profit opportunities to be seized.  Such seizing, in turn, not only yields deserved profits to the entrepreneurs who successfully carry out the seizing, it improves the well-being of consumers and of workers.

Real-world entrepreneurs act, and they do so with their own money and with money voluntarily entrusted to them by others.  In a contrast that could not be more stark, professors, pundits, and priests who see (or imagine) a flaw in how the market serves consumers and workers talk.  Their talk – which is always cheap – is meant to prompt politicians and bureaucrats to act.  But these actions are never done with the money of the professors, pundits, priests, politicians, or bureaucrats.  These actions are always done overwhelmingly at the expense of others.  Moreover, these state actions are, by their nature, never voluntary.  They always are the exercise of brute force deployed to satisfy cheap talkers – the exercise of brute force to try to turn reality into the visions and hallucinations of the cheap talkers.

The cheap talkers preen publicly about their self-declared goodness.  They pat themselves on their backs, and often dispense gaudy awards to each other for the alleged eloquence or ‘importance’ of their cheap talk, or for their alleged ‘courage’ (!) at spending other people’s money and using threats of violence to bend other, peaceful people to their wills.

Their hubris is boundless; their arrogance is insufferable; their ignorance is infinite.


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