≡ Menu

Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 47 of my late Nobel laureate colleague Jim Buchanan‘s 1979 article “Politics Without Romance,” as it is reprinted in volume 1 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty:

unknown-2 It seems to be nothing more than simple and obvious wisdom to compare social institutions as they might be expected actually to operate rather than to compare romantic models of how such institutions might be hoped to operate.  But such simple and obvious wisdom was lost to the informed consciousness of Western man for more than a century.  The socialist mystique to the effect that the state, that politics, somehow works its way toward some transcendent “public good” is with us yet, in many guises, as we must surely acknowledge.

Who can deny the truth and the importance of Jim’s insight here?  And yet despite Jim bring awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986 – despite the nearly 38 years of additional, revealing history of actual government operation that we today have available to consult – the words that Jim wrote in 1979 are even more descriptive in 2016 of people’s attitudes toward the state than they were in 1979.  It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that markets are considered to fail if and whenever they fail at achieving some ideal, while governments are considered to succeed if and whenever they succeed at achieving anything other than utter chaos and calamity.  (My colleague Dan Klein can express this last point with far more eloquence than I can muster.)