Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 22, 2019

in Curious Task, Hayek, Hubris and humility, Man of System, Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen, The Profit Motive, Video

… is from page 189 of the 2016 Mercatus Center re-issue of my late colleague Don Lavoie’s superb and still-relevant 1985 volume National Economic Planning: What Is Left?:

[T]he complexity of the modern world is not only an insufficient condition for the advisability of national economic planning but is, on the contrary, a reason for relying on the social intelligence generated by market forces.

DBx: Precisely so.

Raise your hand if you believe that the likes of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Marco Rubio can possibly know enough to plan and to run an economy that effectively serves the needs of 328 million people.

But the deeper point is not that this task is beyond the abilities of venal politicians; it’s that this task is beyond – far beyond – the abilities of anyone. No person and no committee of persons can possibly even begin to gather and to process the amount of knowledge minimally necessary to accomplish what the market accomplishes daily and with such regularity that we take these accomplishments for granted – accomplishments such as feeding New York City, ensuring that the shelves at Safeway and Walmart and Banana Republic are stuffed with quality goods that consumers desire and can afford, and ‘simply’ making available our daily bread.

Perhaps the most maddening aspect of the current dissatisfaction with capitalism is the obliviousness of those who are dissatisfied. Each of us can imagine a personal worldly paradise. And none of us will discover that the real world is that worldly paradise. Yet socialists on the left and populists on the right mistake reality’s inability to fulfill their fantasies as a failure that can be corrected by caring leaders with the power to coerce. It’s a delusion – a fatal conceit – and an ever-present danger to humanity.

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