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The Hubris of Such People Is Appalling

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


Jonathan Gruber’s and Simon Johnson’s case for government to do massively more to increase innovation rests on several questionable assumptions (“We need new research hubs – but not on the coasts. Here’s how we get them.” December 7). Among these is that Congress – which long ago lost whatever spine that it might once have had to refuse the demands of constituents for immediate gratification, and the yammering of special interests for economically harmful privileges – can be trusted to attend to the future prudently and apolitically.

But no assumption is more questionable than that which lurks in Gruber’s and Johnson’s call to “strengthen scientific fields where breakthroughs are imminent.” Anyone who truly knows in sufficient detail what breakthroughs are imminent is not someone who will work as a bureaucrat or even as a member of Congress. That person instead will use his or her clairvoyance to make a personal fortune to dwarf that of Jeff Bezos – whose own personal fortune, take note, was made by innovating in retailing, a field that no professor, politician, or pundit of 30 years foresaw as being on the verge of one of the greatest innovations of all time.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


Gruber and Johnson would not have been more ridiculous had they instead written “If we all just pray to this here gaggle of magical geese, we will soon enjoy an endless supply of golden eggs.”