… is from page 221 of my good friend and old teacher Randy Holcombe’s superb 2019 book, Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History :
Democratic institutions act as a filter on public opinion, sifting out small costs and benefits that are spread among the population at large and focusing instead on concentrated costs and benefits that have large impacts on narrow interests. For this reason, democratic political institutions favor policies that impose small costs on most people, who are rationally ignorant about the policies, to finance large benefits to smaller groups.
DBx: History testifies repeatedly to the correctness of this observation. And yet well-meaning peddlers of schemes to use government to create on earth something closer to paradise ignore this reality. This ignorance plagues proposals whether new or merely newly packaged, and regardless of how real or fanciful are the problems that the scheme-peddlers’ propose to ‘solve.’
“Secure our supply chains!” “Secure our borders!” “Leave no child behind!” “Bring back manufacturing jobs!” “Stop exporting our jobs!” “Invest in the industries of the future!” “Protect the environment!” “Spread the wealth!” “Just say ‘No!'” “A living wage for everyone!” “Save the family farm!” “Save small businesses!” “Strengthen our national defense!” “End corporate greed!” “Protect our cultural heritage!” “Stricter campaign-finance laws!” “Break up the monopolies!” “Common-good capitalism!” “Common-good constitutional law!” “Common-good this, that, and the other thing!”
And so it goes, on and on and on – slogans with wide appeal are trumpeted, power is created ostensibly to ensure the realization of the lovely aspirations, and the pigs rush gluttonously to the resulting troughs. Yet the pigs are too seldom noticed; they devour their feasts undisturbed. Most people continue to be bedazzled by the brilliance of the mirages conjured by the slogans.