… is from page 32 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1997 paper “There Is a Science of Economics,” as this paper is reprinted in Economic Inquiry and Its Logic (2000), which is volume 12 of the Collected Works of James M. Buchanan (original emphasis):
If economics is to be compared with natural science, economists should be able to define what can and cannot be done with the human materials and potential that exist. Economists, and economic science, should generate a feasibility space, fully analogous to that generated for the physical universe by natural science.
DBx: Yes. Indisputably so. Reality isn’t optional.
Yet how many are those who, proud of their respect for the natural sciences, never dream of denying the constraints identified by the natural sciences, but think nothing of denying the constraints identified by economic science?
People cheer when the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren announce schemes to generate outcomes the achievement of which are wholly inconsistent not only with human nature but, often, even with arithmetic. And the great irony is that these cheering deniers of reality are especially prone to fancy themselves as being unusually clear-eyed and objective disciples of science.
The main and seemingly endless task of good economists is to remind people that two plus two never equals any sum greater than four, that to transfer a loaf from somewhere to Sam’s plate means that there’s at least one less loaf for Jane or Joe or Junior who reside in somewhere, and that the same human imperfections that cause markets to operate in less-than-heavenly fashions do not disappear, or even diminish, when humans are given the power of the state to “correct” these market “imperfections.”