≡ Menu

Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 203 of my brilliant colleague Bryan Caplan’s pioneering 2007 book, The Myth of the Rational Voter (footnotes deleted; ellipses original to Caplan; the internal quotations are from Frederic Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms):

economicfallacy4-400x266There is much to learn from Bastiat’s approach to economic education.  But that is only the beginning.  Bastiat puts economic education in a broader context.  Economists study the world, but are also a part of it.  Where do they fit in?  Bastiat’s answer is “the refutation of commonplace prejudices.”  To use modern terminology, economists supply the public good of correcting systematically biased beliefs.  Their main task: “clearing the way for truth … preparing men’s minds to understand it … correcting public opinion … breaking dangerous weapons in the hands of those who misuse them.”

DBx: Alas, this all-important task of the economist is one that we economists have not performed well.  Far too many non-economists – seeing only what Deirdre McCloskey calls “the first act,” and mistaking stated intentions for actual results – still believe that schemes such as minimum wages, tariffs, soaking the rich, and goosing up government spending yield net benefits to the poor and middle-classes.  Widespread embrace of these and other fallacies (in some cases, sadly, encouraged by incompetent economists) makes all of us – excepting the rent-seekers who successfully surf this public ignorance for their own venal, private purposes – poorer and less free.


Next post:

Previous post: