… is from page 163 of the 2007 Definitive Edition (Bruce Caldwell, ed.) of F.A. Hayek’s classic 1944 volume, The Road to Serfdom (footnote deleted):
There is indeed, as he [Reinhold Niebuhr] says elsewhere, “an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their vices to larger and larger groups.” To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group.
DBx: Not one in ten thousand of the people who support, say, minimum-wage legislation would think himself to be a decent person if he took it upon himself to march about town, armed to the teeth, officiously threatening to cage or to shoot any employer who pays to any worker an hourly wage below the wage that this officious armed person deems acceptable. And yet this same person nevertheless believes that, although it is ethically wrong for him individually to interfere with a voluntary contract between two consenting adults, it is not only not wrong, but positively splendid, for a large number of people, acting in concert, to use threats of violence to interfere with that same contract. Examples of such questionable ethics are, of course, many.
(The photo above is of Niebuhr.)