Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 12, 2019

in Economics, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Virginia Political Economy

… is from my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan’s important January 1st, 2000, Wall Street Journal essay titled “Saving the Soul of Classical Liberalism”:

It is only through an understanding of, and appreciation for, the animating principles of the extended order of the market that an individual may refrain from nonsensical political action. Those who advocate minimum wage laws, rent controls, price supports, or monetary inflation simply do not have an understanding of the individual or the marketplace. For the scientist in the academy, understanding such principles should translate into advocacy of classical liberal stances. But economic scientists alone do not possess the authority to impose their own opinions, the citizenry at large must also be brought into the fold.

DBx: Yes.

Because cause and effect in economic reality are no where close to being as easily and as surely identified as they are in physical reality, the role of the sound economic educator is of great importance. A person who proclaims that humans can fly off of skyscraper roofs by flapping their arms will get very few, if any, converts to his or her position. Physical reality speaks clearly.

Yet a person who proclaims that tariffs increase national prosperity, that minimum-wage and mandatory paid-leave requirements improve the well-being of workers generally, or that “free” college tuition will lower the cost of college and that “free” health-care will increase the accessibility of high-quality health-care receives applause, cheers, and – worst of all – votes.

Although these propositions are no less absurd than is the proposition that human flight is possible by the mere flapping of arms, the enormous complexity of society masks the calamitous consequences of these and other similarly wrong-headed policies. The invisibility to the naked eye of these consequences makes necessary the role of the economic educator in helping people to see that which would otherwise remain unseen.

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