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Economic Reality Isn’t Optional

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I highlight the importance of always keeping in mind three inescapable realities. A slice:

Third: recognize that government office doesn’t infuse those who hold it with superhuman knowledge.

A modern economy is an inconceivably complex series of trillions of exchanges daily between billions of individuals. For each potential exchange, the handful of individuals who are part of it typically have enough information to know if going through with that exchange is good or bad for them. Each individual who believes that an exchange will be good for her will agree to that exchange — and will not agree to it if she believes that the exchange will not be good for her.

Politicians and bureaucrats given power either to prevent individuals from exchanging, or to compel them to exchange do not have the detailed knowledge that is possessed by individuals on the spot. And so to empower government to regulate industries or trade in the expectation that this regulation will improve matters is to presume that these officials possess an amount of knowledge that is accessible only to a superhuman intelligence.

But of course government officials are not superhuman. To substitute their decisions for those of individuals on the spot is to substitute ignorance for knowledge.


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