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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 241 of my late colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1985 article “Political Economy and Social Philosophy” as it is reprinted in Moral Science and Moral Order, Vol. 17 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan:

Why have they [most modern mainstream economists] remained so reluctant to acknowledge the fragility of the epistemological foundations for their exercises? In part, they remain utilitarians; in part, they seek roles as engineers. But equally important is what I have called an elitist mentality, that describes not only the economists but almost the inclusive membership of the modern academy, along with that of the intelligentsia broadly defined. There has been a general unwillingness to accept the implications of the rejection of classical utilitarianism. Economists, along with their peers, have been unable to evacuate the putative claim to normative knowledge that seemed to be offered by the utilitarian delusion. They continue to think themselves superior in normative wisdom to ordinary persons who possess none of the requisite analytical skills.

DBx: Arrogance is indeed a vice found in superabundance among intellectuals. So, too, is arrogance’s sibling: elitism – even if the elitism that is in vogue today typically masquerades as a ‘oneness’ that those who think themselves anointed imagine they have with ‘the People.’

In law school 30 years ago at the University of Virginia, one of my classmates – who, like his father, had an undergraduate degree from Yale – sometimes wore steel-toe boots to class to show his oneness with blue-collar workers. His steel-toe boots had no scuffs, unlike the steel-toe boots that my father actually was required to wear to work daily at the shipyard. When I told my dad about my classmate’s choice of footwear, my dad shook his head in amusement and informed me that he’s pleased that I’ll never have a job that carries a real risk of having my feet crushed.

In my mind, what my classmate’s steel-toe boots in fact represented was his and other elites’ wish to protect their tender toes from being bruised as they kicked around their fellow human beings.


By the way, to reject utilitarianism (as I do) is not to reject consequentialism (as I do not).