Selected Quotations

  • “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – F.A. Hayek
  • “The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; & is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely & in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide & act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily & harmoniously, & is very likely to be happy & successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, & the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.” – Adam Smith
  • “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it & a moral code that glorifies it.” Frédéric Bastiat

  • “In an imperfect world, we suffer from a ‘fatal conceit’ when we imagine that we can make justice roll down like waters & make righteousness like an ever-flowing stream just by passing laws that say ‘make it so.’ Indeed, laws like this will more often than not make justice & righteousness roll more slowly by perpetuating the inequalities that have historically worked against disadvantaged groups.” – Art Carden
  • “Both the friends & foes of economic decision-making refer to ‘the market’ as if it were an institution parallel with, & alternative to, the government as an institution. The government is indeed an institution, but ‘the market’ is nothing more than an option for each individual to choose among numerous existing institutions, or to fashion new arrangements suited to his own situation & taste. The market is no particular set of institutions. It’s advantages & disadvantages are due precisely to this fact.” – Thomas Sowell
  • “The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete & frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate ‘given’ resources — if ‘given’ is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these ‘data.’ It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.” – F.A. Hayek
  • “Perhaps the most widespread misunderstanding of economics is that it applies solely to financial transactions. Frequently this leads to statements that ‘there are non-economic values to consider.’ There are, of course, non-economic values. Indeed, there are only non-economic values. Economics is not a value itself but merely a method of trading off one value against another.” – Thomas Sowell
  • “Constructing efficient legal rules is largely an attempt to get out of prisoner’s dilemmas: criminal penalties to change incentives of potential thieves, pollution laws to change incentives of potential polluters. We may not be able to succeed completely, but we can at least try, whenever possible, to choose rules under which individual rationality leads to group rationality instead of rules that produce the opposite result.” – David D. Friedman
  • “Knowledge can be enormously costly, & is often widely scattered in uneven fragments, too small to be individually usable in decision-making. The communication & coordination of these scattered fragments of knowledge is one of the basic problems–perhaps the basic problem–of any society, as well as of its constituent institutions & relationships.” – Thomas Sowell
  • “A typical hybrid economy conjures up the image of a walking patient with multi-coloured plastic tubes snaking in & out of every orifice of his body. The tubes infuse & evacuate fluids of all sorts that nourish, stimulate, restrain & neutralise the effects of other fluids. They supplement, redirect & override the body’s own autonomous circuits. Each tube turns out, after a little while, to need strengthening, offsetting, correcting by one or more new tubes, each of the new tubes turning out to need even newer, cleverer supplementary tubes. Every single tube adds something better, an improvement in safety, efficiency &, why not, moral uplift to the body’s own innate equipment. There is every hope of ever-better results. There is no end-result, for the assembly of tubes is never final, but keeps evolving & getting more complicated. Little by little, however, the patient starts looking less & less like a potential athlete, & more like a real invalid. Could it be that the plastic tubes & the body’s own circuits do not mix so well?” – Anthony de Jasay
  • “Imagine buying cars the way we buy governments. Ten thousand people would get together & agree to vote, each for the car he preferred. Whichever car won, each of the ten thousand would have to buy it. It would not pay any of us to make any serious effort to find out which car was best; whatever I decide, my car is being picked for me by other members of the group. Under such institutions, the quality of cars would quickly decline.” – David D. Friedman
  • “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “More frightening than any particular beliefs or policies is an utter lack of any sense of a need to test those beliefs & policies against hard evidence. Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts… dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.” – Thomas Sowell
  • “If there were omniscient men, if we could know not only all that affects the attainment of our present wishes but also our future wants & desires, there would be little case for liberty. &, in turn, liberty of the individual would, of course, make complete foresight impossible. Liberty is essential to leave room for the unforeseeable & unpredictable; we want it because we have learned to expect from it the opportunity of realizing many of our aims. It is because every individual knows so little &, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent & competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.” – F.A. Hayek
  • “Law is not the primary force shaping human relationships, & thereby, human societies. Simply passing a law, without first considering the existing informal arrangements that are in place & working will have very little effect on subsequent behavior.” – Ben Asa Rast
    • “We must override our instinct to proselytize, & instead consciously analyze routes to reform. Whether or not you agree with my analysis of specific strategies, my time will not have been wasted if I can get others to stop bashing their heads against the incentives of democracy, to stop complaining about how people are blind to the abuse of power while themselves being blind to the stability of power, & to think about how we can make systemic changes, outside entrenched power structures, that could realistically lead to a freer world.” – Patri Friedman
    • “A city is not a man-made thing. Rather, it emerges from the actions of its inhabitants, who interact in unpredictable yet orderly ways. Under the right conditions – the right ‘rules of the game’ – what arises is vital, creative, radically unpredictable, & profitable: the living city. …borrowing from ecology (& certain heterodox schools of economic thought), we might say that a living city is a ‘dynamically stable’ process, in which the forces of positive & negative feedback, as well as sudden mutation & diversity, combine under the right conditions to generate order through time. It embodies trial & error, surpluses & shortages, apparently useless duplication, conflict & disappointment, trust & opportunism, & discovery & radical change. These are in the nature of the living city.” – Sandy Ikeda
    • “No matter how great our fancied understanding of society, no matter how great our presumed sophistication, history always has its surprises for us.” – Kenneth Boulding
    • “…in choosing among social arrangements within the context of which individual decisions are made, we have to bear in mind that a change in the existing system which will lead to an improvement in some decisions may well lead to a worsening in others. Furthermore, we have to take into account the costs involved in operating the various social arrangements (whether it be the working of a market or of a governmental department) as well as the costs involved in moving to a new system. In devising & choosing among social arrangements we should have regard for the total effect.” – R.H. Coase

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    1. […] Selected Quotations […]

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