Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 29, 2022

in Doux Commerce, Philosophy of Freedom, Trade

… is from my GMU Econ colleague Pete Boettke’s September 24th, 2018, AIER essay titled “Lionel Robbins, Prophet of International Liberalism” (reference info deleted; links added):

By the late 1930s, international liberalism was in retreat. The market economy, it was argued, was inefficient, unstable, and unjust, and government planning was the panacea of the age. Lionel Robbins decided to step up and provide the counterargument. As Henry Hazlitt pointed out in his August 1, 1937, New York Times review of Economic Planning and International Order (1937), the “brilliant exception” to the tenor of the times was Lionel Robbins.

Liberalism without apology was the answer to the social ills that plagued the world economy. Robbins dedicates his book to the memory of Edwin Cannan, and in 300+ well-written pages he makes the case that “not capitalism, which rightly conditioned, is a safeguard of liberty and progress, but nationalism, which tends to poverty and conflict, is the cause of our present distresses.”

“The principle of international liberalism,” Robbins writes, “is decentralization and control by the market.”  Planning, on the other hand, has proven itself to lead to “waste and insecurity,” and thus “now there seems reason to doubt … the practicability of a comprehensive planning from the centre which does not destroy just that which it was intended to preserve.” Civilization was at stake, and sober economic analysis was perhaps the best response. For it is the technical principles of economics that enable the analyst to assess the impact of alternative institutional arrangements on the ability of individuals to realize productive specialization and peaceful social cooperation.

DBx: Indeed.

Pictured above is Lionel Robbins (1898-1984). (It is Robbins who is most responsible for arranging for Hayek, in the early 1930s, to join the faculty at the L.S.E.)

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