Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 18, 2022

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 283 of my colleague Peter Boettke’s 2016 paper “Pessimistically Optimistic about the Future,” as this paper is reprinted in Pete’s 2021 book, The Struggle for a Better World:

I am an optimist because of the creativity of individuals and the power of the market; I am a pessimist because of the moral intuitions hard-wired into humans through our evolutionary past in small-group settings and the tyranny of government controls in the affairs of men. The logical outcomes of both are fundamentally opposed: complete and unregulated trade with all or isolation and war against all. Human history, I contend, can be seen as the long drama of these two forces battling it out to determine which norms of interaction will be dominant. Put another way, we can follow the Smithian propensity to truck, barter, and exchange, or we can follow the Hobbesian propensity to rape, pillage, and plunder. Optimism comes from Smithian propensities winning out over Hobbesian ones, whereas pessimism comes from the Hobbesian propensities sweeping aside the Smithian ones.

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