Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 11, 2019

in Hubris and humility, Politics

… is from page 518 of George Will’s 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:

Liberalism as originally understood – limited government supervising market societies; government respectful of individual autonomy and individuals’ voluntary transactions – is thin gruel for those with an appetite for red meat politics. As Isaiah Berlin wrote, “A liberal sermon which recommends machinery designed to prevent people from doing each other too much harm, giving each human group sufficient room to realize its own idiosyncratic, unique, particular ends without too much interference with the ends of others, is not a passionate battle-cry to inspire men to sacrifice and martyrdom and heroic feats.”

DBx: Will here quotes from page 50 of the 2013 Princeton University Press edition of Berlin’s 1958 volume, The Crooked Timber of Humanity.

Saviors require victims to save. Among the many benefits of innovative free markets is that they steadily reduce the number of people who can accurately be described as “victims.”

But, ironically, the same market forces which reduce the number of victims also increase the number of saviors. And so saviors in today’s wealthy society, finding actual victims to be in short and diminishing supply, must create their own victims. Nearly always, such creation is a feat of imagination run amuck and off the rails – as when, for example, a “Progressive” asserts that people in the lower part of the income distribution are harmed if economic growth raises their real incomes by less than it raises the real incomes of people in the upper part of the income distribution, or when a “conservative nationalist” thunders against the “unfairness” of domestic producers having to compete against rivals who happen to be foreign.

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