… is from page 499 of Herbert Spencer’s insightful 1891 essay “From Freedom to Bondage,” as this essay is reprinted in Liberty Fund’s 1981 collection of some of Spencer’s writings, The Man Versus the State, with Six Essays on Government, Society, and Freedom:
For as fast as the régime of contract is discarded the régime of status is of necessity adopted. As fast as voluntary cooperation is abandoned compulsory cooperation must be substituted. Some kind of organization labour must have; and if it is not that which arises by agreement under free competition, it must be that which is imposed by authority…. This is a truth which the communist or the socialist does not dwell upon. Angry with the existing system under which each of us takes care of himself, while all of us see that each has fair play, he thinks how much better it would be for all of us to take care of each of us; and he refrains from thinking of the machinery by which this is to be done.
DBx: It’s not only communists and socialists who refrain from thinking of the machinery by which their fancied outcomes are to be pursued by government. Nearly all proponents of government intervention, including today’s proponents of industrial policy, also so refrain.
Interventionists typically describe lovely outcomes and then posit a handful of measures for government officials to impose – measures for ham-fistedly prohibiting this large class of actions, penalizing that other large class of actions, and subsidizing yet some other other large class of actions. Selling their schemes to the public in terms of excellent promised outcomes, the means that interventionists propose for government to use to achieve these outcomes – and to do so without giving rise to worse unintended consequences – are never formulated and calibrated to account for the great, unseen complexity of the economic and social phenomena that must be successfully rearranged if the interventionists’ schemes are to have any hope of successfully achieving the interventionists’ stated goals. Instead, interventionists count on the occurrence of miracles.