… is from page 179 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan‘s superb 1979 collection, What Should Economists Do? (H. Geoffrey Brennan & Robert D. Tollison, eds); specifically, it’s from Jim’s March 1977 paper “Notes on the History and Direction of Public Choice”:
I recall that Hobbes is alleged to have stated that we should never have accepted the “truth” that two plus two equals four if it had been in the interest of any group to oppose this logic of the simple number system.
DBx: Arguments for protectionism – what GMU Econ PhD candidate Jon Murphy calls “scarcityism” – are nearly as illogical and as incoherent as is the claim that two plus two equals some number other than four. Yet large is the size of the loot that special-interest groups can win for their members if the public can be persuaded of the economic equivalent that two plus two does indeed equal – or can be made by government action to equal – some number other than four. And so rent-seekers and protectionists spend a great deal of effort to craft arguments that are alleged to show the economic equivalent that two plus two equals some number other than four.