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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 286 of the 1982 Norton Critical Edition of William Dean Howells’s great 1885 novel The Rise of Silas Lapham; here, Lapham – a Boston manufacturer – was just offered in on a shady business deal that, he was assured, were it to fail the resulting loss would “fall upon people who are able to bear it”:

There was nothing in the Englishman’s sophistry very shocking to Lapham. It addressed itself in him to that easy-going, not evilly intentioned, potential immorality which regards common property as common prey, and gives us the most corrupt municipal governments under the sun – which makes the poorest voter, when he has tricked into place, as unscrupulous in regard to others’ money as an hereditary prince.

DBx: So true.

The state – assumed by many people, and by nearly every economist, as finding its first and core justification in supplying public goods, including the “internalization” of externalities – in fact creates mountains of negative externalities by enabling Jones to spend Smith’s money, Smith to spend Jackson’s, and Jackson to spend Jones’s.

It’s fashionable today to call this arrangement “progressive” and “humane.” In reality, it’s idiotic and destructive.