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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 6 of Deirdre McCloskey’s September 2018 manuscript “Raising Up Private Max U,” which is forthcoming in The Ethical Formation of Economists (Wilfred Dolfsma and Iona Negru, eds.):

The problem is that ethics in economics has been thoughtlessly attached to Rousseau’s notion of a general will.  Deep in left-wing thought and in a good deal of right-wing thought about the economy is the premise, as Isaiah Berlin once put it, that government can accomplish whatever it rationally proposes to do.  As has been often observed about leftists even as sweet as was John Rawls, the left has no theory of the behavior of the government.  It assumes that the government is a perfect expression of the will of The People.  So goes the welfare economics of Abraham Bergson and Paul Samuelson and the public finance of Richard Musgrave, and behind them the (mathematically incoherent) goal of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to be achieved by wise utilitarians in government.  The liberals such as James Buchanan do have a theory of government, and a good deal of empirical work to back it up.  Liberalism has always been a theory against and therefore about coercion.  When my left-wing friends, of whom I have many, claim with a knowing smile that in admiring markets I am “ignoring power” I have a way of replying: no, dear, it is you who are ignoring power, the power of the monopoly of violence called a government.

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