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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 226 of the 2007 Definitive Edition (Bruce Caldwell, ed.) of F.A. Hayek’s classic 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom; specifically, it’s from chapter 15, which is titled “The Prospects of International Order” (footnote deleted):

To undertake the direction of the economic life of people with widely divergent ideals and values is to assume responsibilities which commit one to the use of force; it is to assume a position where the best intentions cannot prevent one from being forced to act in a way which to some of those affected must be immoral.

DBx: One of the important achievements of free markets is that they peacefully prompt individuals not only to respect the preferences of others, but also to help others achieve their goals even when those preferences and goals are not widely shared. Furthermore, no one is compelled to offer such assistance; such assistance is given voluntarily; it is elicited through commercial offers.

Industrial policy, in contrast, conscripts everyone into serving the vision of the architects of the industrial policy. Many NatCons today, for example, long for an economy featuring more factory jobs. Never mind that most Americans don’t want such jobs (as we can tell because most Americans would not agree to take the pay cuts that would be required to ‘purchase’ the privilege of having many more such jobs). But if these NatCons ever manage to grab enough political power, they’ll try to impose their vision – an imposition that will be impossible to achieve without the NatCons threatening coercion on anyone who is prone to act in ways that would undermine the NatCons’ scheme.

The very existence of a concrete ‘vision’ for what an economy ‘should’ look like in its details implies that the visionary believes that something is amiss if the actual economy fails to satisfy his vision. It’s a short step from the disappointment that the visionary experiences at the failure of reality – at the failure of his fellow human beings – to live up to his ideals to the visionary’s conviction that he is entitled to coerce his fellow human beings to behave as he has divined they ‘should’ behave.

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