Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 17, 2019

in Adam Smith, Hubris and humility, Regulation, Seen and Unseen, Trade

… is from page 133 of the 2000 Liberty Fund edition of Frederic William Maitland’s profound 1875 dissertation at Trinity College, Cambridge, A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality (emphasis added):

The main argument of the Wealth of Nations remains to this day a valid reason for leaving trade free, and the main argument is that interference only makes bad worse. This has been forcibly repeated by post-Malthusian economists, who have argued that our present system of private property, freedom of contract, considerable testamentary powers, is in its broad outlines more likely to produce the happiness of mankind than any other legislative system yet sketched out. The argument is, briefly, that in our present system legislative interference is nearly at a minimum; that any other system would require constant and meddling intereferences; that such interferences themselves cause pain; that such interferences would be futile, the economic forces with which they have to contend being too powerful to be turned from their course; that self-reliance would be destroyed. But after all, the most powerful argument is that based on the ignorance, the necessary ignorance, of our rulers.

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