June 23, 2007
My favorite passages came from the section "Ignorance and Self-Interest," in which Heyne writes about people who propose policy as if they were "Aristotelian gods":
They grossly underestimate the amount of detailed knowledge that has to be used to provide food and housing for the inhabitants of a city; to assure enough but not too many physicians, plumbers, poets, and airline pilots; to make electricity and telephone service available to everyone; to maintain processes of discovery that will provide new and valuable answers to old problems of discomfort, disease, and disaster.
The dramatic failure of socialism that could no longer be denied at the end of the twentieth century was not, as many seem to believe, a consequence of the fact that people are selfish and put their own interests ahead of the interests of society. It was a consequence of the fact that no one is omniscient. We put our own interests ahead of the interests of most of those with whom we interact because we know what our own interests are, but do not even know the identities of most of the people with whom we cooperate every day.
The basic principles of economics will not be readily understood or appreciated by people who believe that economic theory explains the operation of an essentially immoral society, one governed by selfishness or dominated by the desire of "material welfare" rather than "human welfare." ... People who talk this way literally do not know what they are talking about.
Mmmmm. And there's more deliciousness where that came from.
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