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Quotation of the Day…

… is the closing passage, on page 367 of the 1990 Transaction Publishers reprint, of W.H. Hutt’s great 1936 volume, Economists and the Public:

Finally, we have suggested that economic liberty, with the equality of opportunity which it has always implied, is an attainable ideal. We have, in other words, offered a glimpse of the sort of Utopia which could take shape in the dreams of a realist – the liberal ideal. So we commend these thoughts to other dreamers of a better world who have faith in reason.

DBx: This conclusion is so very poignant, especially when read in August 2020. While humanity in 1936 was in the midst of an usually dastardly spasm of irrationality – one that would soon re-erupt into massive blood-spilling – it was only about ten years away from the start of a slow, not-always-sure, but steady-enough climb out of insanity toward reason and civilization.

But in what condition is humanity in 2020? Irrationality is lauded by many – and especially by many elites – as the highest form of human sentiment. Across the political spectrum nationalism is rising. Identity politics reigns. A modern-day inquisition stampedes furiously through the land, searching for signs of less-than-enthusiastic devotion to the sacred creed.

Economists who thought of economics – and who did economics – as did Hutt are fewer and fewer. The single largest remnant of us are holdout in Fairfax. For pointing out the limits of science we are accused of being unscientific. For defending reason we are called unreasonable. For advocating peaceful commerce unrestrained by state-sponsored schemes we are dismissed as naive. For proposing that individuals be left free to pursue whatever peaceful ends with whatever peaceful means they choose – a freedom protected by a strong presumption against prescription and proscription by the state – we are accused of being enemies of humanity.

The most destructive sorts of romanticism and ignorance are now in the saddle. And what struggles there are today pit not defenders of reason and liberty against enthusiasts for romanticism and power, but instead people who disagree only over which particular romantic, mad ends the unlimited power of the state will be used to impose.