Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 19, 2018

in Reality Is Not Optional, Regulation, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 87 of my colleague Richard Wagner’s superb 2017 intellectual biography of Jim Buchanan, James M. Buchanan and Liberal Political Economy:

There can be many reasons why someone might think some modicum of force might be necessary to maintain good civil order. It is impossible, however, to guarantee that force will be limited to maintaining good civil order. Force will be deployed as its holders choose to deploy it. This is a basic, irremediable quality of human nature.

DBx: Without question, the most common serious error committed by those who look to the state to ‘solve’ problems (whether real or imaginary) is their assumption that the power they call upon will be used as they wish it to be used and never, or seldom, as they wish it not to be used.

Those who call on the state today are, with one significant difference, very much like people who pray to god to intervene in human affairs: god – being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good – will answer worthwhile prayers precisely as the petitioners plead while never, ever abusing the godly power. The difference is that, unlike with god, there is absolutely no question of the state’s existence. No one doubts, or can possibly doubt, that the state exists and intervenes in human affairs.

And as I think about the matter, I see another difference: also unlike god, the state rarely acts in mysterious ways. A sound understanding of state action begins with public-choice scholarship.

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