… is from page 16 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James M. Buchanan‘s 2005 book, Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism:
What I seek to rule out here, or at least for a sufficient number of interacting persons in the social order, is the ‘arrogance of ignorance’ as exercised through ill-advised collective actions. The perfectibility [of human understanding] threshold for the viability of classical liberalism requires that persons eschew romantic ideals about the potential perfectibility of society itself. In other words, the viability of classical liberalism depends critically upon persons ‘keeping their feet on the ground.’
DBx: Jim Buchanan warned against romanticizing politics of any sort, including democratic politics. He also, let it be said clearly, warned against romanticizing free markets.
People (such as Nancy MacLean) who have only a superficial familiarity with Buchanan’s work misinterpret Buchanan’s, and other public-choice scholars’, opposition to many collectivized schemes for social improvement as being opposition to the stated goals of these schemes’ champions rather than being opposition to the collectivized means that are chosen to achieve these goals. Such a mistake is an especially childish and lazy one, but it is nevertheless a distressingly common one.