… is from page 568 of the final volume (2016) – Bourgeois Equality – of Deirdre McCloskey’s soaring trilogy on the essence and role of bourgeois values in modern life (original emphasis):
The big and little tragedies of a profit-directed economy are necessary for it to get better. The same is true in science and art, though not about money profit. Many experiments fail, and we get the benefit from the better ideas for surgeries and paintings and fish restaurants that succeed because resources have been reallocated to them instead.
Trade-tested betterment is the most altruistic of economic systems, because everything is directed toward satisfying ordinary customers.
Those who would restrict trade – here because the suppliers that customers choose to patronize aren’t members of state-approved guilds, there because the suppliers that customers choose to patronize carry passports issued by an agency different from the agency that issues those customers’ passports, and over yonder because the suppliers that customers choose to patronize charge prices that are deemed by ‘leaders’ to be too low or too high – are insufferably ignorant and arrogant. They would disrupt the competitive process by substituting their own judgments of how trade should proceed for the judgments of the actual individuals who put their own money and reputations on the line with every trade – namely, consumers spending, and producers and investors risking, their own money.
While towns boasting names such as “Cambridge” and “Palo Alto” and “Washington” have no shortage of residents who can write abstract models that show just how this restriction on trade and that restraint of commerce can, under just the right circumstances, increase social welfare – and while these writers-of-abstract-models frequently fancy themselves as being counsellors and confidants to the Powerful – these writers-of-abstract-models remain not only shockingly naive about the actual motives and actions of the Powerful whom they so pantingly admire, but also distressingly unaware of how real-world economies differ in many crucial ways from their lovely abstract social-engineering models.