… is from page 26 of Matt Ridley’s new book, How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom (links added; ellipses original to Ridley):
Five years after [James] Watt died in 1819, there was a subscription to build a monument to him, unusual in those days when monuments were mostly to those who won wars. The editors of a journal called The Chemist had this to say, rather perceptively: ‘He is distinguished from other public benefactors, by never having made, or pretended to make it his objective to benefit the public … This unpretending man in reality conferred more benefit on the world than all those who for centuries have made it their especial business to look after the public welfare.’
DBx: Part of what is said in that portion of the article in The Chemist that Ridley, for brevity, left out of his quotation is praise for Watt for not being “a political quack, or a religious charlatan, who pretends to live and act only for others.” Indeed.
Humankind has suffered grievously, and continues to so suffer, from our childish gullibility for those who ‘pretend to live and act only for others.’ This suffering is enhanced by our related failure to recognize that persons pursuing their own chosen courses in free markets succeed only by succeeding in serving others – with success judged by the individuals who are served rather than by the individuals performing the service.
As I believe I first heard David Henderson put it, “Intentions are not results.”