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Quotation of the Day…

… is from pages 47-48 of Lionel Robbins’s February 1931 Economica article, titled “Economic Notes on Some Arguments for Protection“:

To establish a case for restriction of complete laissez faire is not to establish a case for particular administrative expedients. To ascertain that occasionally an operation for appendicitis is necessary is not to establish that the appendix is best removed with a chisel. This fact is often overlooked in popular discussions of this matter, and arguments which establish the negative conclusion that laissez faire may not in certain cases lead to the most satisfactory results are made the pretext for the crudest arguments for a tariff.

DBx: And so matters remain nearly 90 years later, with trade policy as well as with other policies.

Jones observes that real-world market processes aren’t as excellent as is some ideal that he can imagine. Although Jones too seldom pauses to ponder if his imagined ideal really is one that is widely shared by his fellow citizens or human beings, Jones nevertheless rushes headlong to the conclusion not only that the market “fails” but that this “failure” can – indeed, must – be “corrected” by conscious intervention by state officials.

In this performance, Jones mysteriously assumes that none of the constraints on knowledge and motivation that he was quick to identify as the source of the “market failure” affect the flesh-and-blood human beings who will exercise state power to engineer reality toward Jones’s imagined ideal.

Jones self-confidently regards himself – and presents himself to others – as an objective scientist, no more driven to his endorsement of state intervention by ideology than is an astrophysicist driven to identify a distant binary star by ideology.

Jones’s conceit is, for humanity, among those that are fatal.