Quote of the Day: On Our Betters in Government

 

The Law by Frédéric Bastiat is a short, searing work praising free markets and condemning the socialism that was wrecking his nation of France. One of my favorite quotes about politicians who aim to control the citizens:

The claims of these organizers of humanity raise another question which I have often asked them and which, so far as I know, they have never answered: If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind? The organizers maintain that society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse. The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and to give it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority.

Bastiat asked this question in 1850. We’re still waiting for an answer.

There are 48 comments.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    A great quote. It reminded me of the day in the 90s when I was watching C-Span and Senator Patty Murray got up to speak. I think the topic was something to do with taxes, and she actually said that if people are allowed to keep their own money, they’ll just go out and blow it on a new VCR or something. She said that.

    • #1
  2. Jason Obermeyer Member
    Jason Obermeyer
    @JasonObermeyer

    A fine conservative position to have. It’s a counterpoint to the obsequiousness some convervatives seem to have when dealing with the lastest assertion from the DOJ or the FBI.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Bastiat asked this question in 1850. We’re still waiting for an answer.

    And shall continue to wait.

    • #3
  4. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Jon, if you replaced “betters” with “chowderheads” in your post title, I’d be a lot happier.

    • #4
  5. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Great quote!  I have a great life without experts (other than my wife) telling me how to live it . . .

    • #5
  6. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Stad (View Comment):

    Great quote! I have a great life without experts (other than my wife) telling me how to live it . . .

    Mona, Kristol, Radio Free Tom, et. al. don’t see what the problem is. 

    • #6
  7. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    In fairness, the lefties do have an answer to that question.  I don’t think it’s a very good answer, but we should acknowledge it.  Their answer is that what corrupts mankind is the profit motive.  Money is the root of all evil, etc., etc.  Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow. 

    It’s a cute answer – it just doesn’t turn out to be true.  Government functionaries are, inevitably, at least as corrupt as private entrepreneurs, and always have been.  Not only that, but most of the corruption in the private sector takes the form of enlisting the help of those selfsame government functionaries to keep their competition out of the marketplace.  Government doesn’t prevent corruption, it multiplies it.  Oh, and while I’m on the subject, it turns out that government functionaries also like profit, and manage to get their hands on quite a bit of it.  The richest neighborhoods in America are the suburbs of Washington D.C.

    • #7
  8. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    We’re doing a lousy job of suggesting that question to the many young the left is indoctrinating.

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Maybe because our Founders recognized this, they deferred to a Higher Power for direction and created a government by the People and for the People, and it actually works.

    • #9
  10. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    As Milton Friedman put it to Phil Donahue: “Where in the world are these angels?”

    In the final seconds of the video.)

     

    • #10
  11. ChrisShearer Coolidge
    ChrisShearer
    @ChrisShearer

    Not related to legislators and political leaders, I do worry about the pendulum swings too far away from the value of an “expert” and his/her gained knowledge.  As a physician I know my professional knowledge is valuable AND that my patients have the freedom to choose.  The trick is to stay humble by accepting the patients decision and still staying engaged however the decision turns out.

    Expertise  without humility is dangerous.  I believe that is at the heart of the contempt for “elites” (i.e. expertise without humility).

    • #11
  12. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    As Milton Friedman put it to Phil Donahue: “Where in the world are these angels?”

    In the final seconds of the video.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ0-cDKMS5

    Is anyone else getting “This video does not exist” when they click on this link ?

    • #12
  13. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    ChrisShearer (View Comment):

    Not related to legislators and political leaders, I do worry about the pendulum swings too far away from the value of an “expert” and his/her gained knowledge. As a physician I know my professional knowledge is valuable AND that my patients have the freedom to choose. The trick is to stay humble by accepting the patients decision and still staying engaged however the decision turns out.

    Expertise without humility is dangerous. I believe that is at the heart of the contempt for “elites” (i.e. expertise without humility).

    The problem is excessively centralized power in combination with “experts”. That is how are you run into trouble. Now there are so many vested interests in this garbage. What a mess.

    • #13
  14. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    As Milton Friedman put it to Phil Donahue: “Where in the world are these angels?”

    In the final seconds of the video.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ0-cDKMS5

    Is anyone else getting “This video does not exist” when they click on this link ?

    Sorry. Fixed it.

    • #14
  15. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

     

    • #15
  16. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    People with high SAT scores who also have aunts and uncles who can arrange internships should ultimately be given high incomes and unquestioned, unaccountable power to run the world.  For grubby, Trump-loving, presumptively racist, homophobic proles like Jon Gabriel to challenge this is simply unacceptable.

    • #16
  17. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Nassim Taleb has some very good discussions related to this topic. He’s not a big fan of measuring IQ and credentials. 

    His last two interviews on Russ Roberts’ podcast were just excellent. It was more wide-ranging than this stuff but it was included. He sounded somewhat like Yoram Hazony, if you are familiar.

    • #17
  18. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    The Law by Frédéric Bastiat is a short, searing work praising free markets and condemning the socialism that was wrecking his nation of France…

    Bastiat asked this question in 1850.

    It’s interesting that Bastiat is complaining about socialism about 50 years after then end of the French Revolution.  In America, progressivism started in the 1890’s but didn’t turn into mild socialism until 1933, giving us over 100 extra years of freedom.


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    • #18
  19. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    The Law by Frédéric Bastiat is a short, searing work praising free markets and condemning the socialism that was wrecking his nation of France…

    Bastiat asked this question in 1850.

    It’s interesting that Bastiat is complaining about socialism about 50 years after then end of the French Revolution. In America, progressivism started in the 1890’s but didn’t turn into mild socialism until 1933, giving us over 100 extra years of freedom.


     

    Experts on this stuff always point out that socialism is only “successful” after society’s capital is built up by capitalism.

    Yet capital is distinct from money, it is a largely irreversible, definite structure, composed of heterogeneous elements which can be (loosely) described as goods, knowledge, context, human beings, talents and experience.

    link

    • #19
  20. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    In fairness, the lefties do have an answer to that question. I don’t think it’s a very good answer, but we should acknowledge it. Their answer is that what corrupts mankind is the profit motive. Money is the root of all evil, etc., etc. Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow.

    It’s a cute answer – it just doesn’t turn out to be true. Government functionaries are, inevitably, at least as corrupt as private entrepreneurs, and always have been. Not only that, but most of the corruption in the private sector takes the form of enlisting the help of those selfsame government functionaries to keep their competition out of the marketplace. Government doesn’t prevent corruption, it multiplies it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, it turns out that government functionaries also like profit, and manage to get their hands on quite a bit of it. The richest neighborhoods in America are the suburbs of Washington D.C.

    That answer is cute, all right, and totally misleading. The motive behind both entrepreneurship and governing when acting improperly is power, nothing else. So they are essentially the same thing and really devastating when joined.

    • #20
  21. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    As Milton Friedman put it to Phil Donahue: “Where in the world are these angels?”

    In the final seconds of the video.)

    Milton Friedman was the best.

     

    • #21
  22. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    In fairness, the lefties do have an answer to that question. I don’t think it’s a very good answer, but we should acknowledge it. Their answer is that what corrupts mankind is the profit motive. Money is the root of all evil, etc., etc. Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow.

    It’s a cute answer – it just doesn’t turn out to be true. Government functionaries are, inevitably, at least as corrupt as private entrepreneurs, and always have been. Not only that, but most of the corruption in the private sector takes the form of enlisting the help of those selfsame government functionaries to keep their competition out of the marketplace. Government doesn’t prevent corruption, it multiplies it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, it turns out that government functionaries also like profit, and manage to get their hands on quite a bit of it. The richest neighborhoods in America are the suburbs of Washington D.C.

    One of the prevailing themes around this is that while you have to actually compete in capitalism, or you go out of business, in government, you don’t – you have an unending checkbook, with which you can (essentially) buy votes.

    This means the laziest of economic thinkers, and, frankly, losers, are attracted to the congressional halls of power.  I know there are exceptions to this rule, but someone like a Pelosi is only successful through politics, nothing more.

    Which is comparable to how leeches thrive.

    • #22
  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?

    The socialist’s answer is B) better than the rest of us proles. Better intentions. Better credentials. Better (leftist) positions. Smarter, too.

    Pride goes before the fall. Unfortunately, they’re going to take the rest of us over the cliff with them. Bastards.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow. 

    I’ve never understood why monetary profit is distinguished from other types, as in, “What shall it profit a man to gain political power for his social class, and lose his own soul?”

    • #24
  25. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow.

    I’ve never understood why monetary profit is distinguished from other types, as in, “What shall it profit a man to gain political power for his social class, and lose his own soul?”

    The other misunderstood aspect of that quote is that “profit” is presupposed to be a good. Something desirable, but as in all things, it can be corrupted by fallen people. All these young people with useless degrees making it their highest aspiration to work for a “non-profit” is a sign of the sickness in our culture.

    • #25
  26. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Chris Campion (View Comment):

    One of the prevailing themes around this is that while you have to actually compete in capitalism, or you go out of business, in government, you don’t – you have an unending checkbook, with which you can (essentially) buy votes.

    This means the laziest of economic thinkers, and, frankly, losers, are attracted to the congressional halls of power. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but someone like a Pelosi is only successful through politics, nothing more.

    Which is comparable to how leeches thrive.

    No one gets this, but an important cause of this is central bank discretion. As long as you have a central bank that can goose the economy, or buy government debt and mortgage-backed securities (or open a pawnshop, just wait LOL) , the problem will be worse. Since we have the reserve currency, the best rule of law, and the best economy, the USA will be the last one to stop doing this.

    Basically bad behavior pays, Central planning looks like it works, and all kinds of people start doing stupid stuff. The economy runs down, inequality goes up goes up, there are asset bubbles everywhere and BOOM! Kooky politicians become popular.

    • #26
  27. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow.

    I’ve never understood why monetary profit is distinguished from other types, as in, “What shall it profit a man to gain political power for his social class, and lose his own soul?”

    The other misunderstood aspect of that quote is that “profit” is presupposed to be a good. Something desirable, but as in all things, it can be corrupted by fallen people. All these young people with useless degrees making it their highest aspiration to work for a “non-profit” is a sign of the sickness in our culture.

    Just as a side note for those who believe some sort of higher glory applies when working for a non-profit:  All non-profits that keep their doors open are posting a profit, annually.

    Because, y’know, costs can’t exceed revenues, for long.

    • #27
  28. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Since government functionaries are not motivated by monetary profit, they must be motivated solely by altruism and are as pure as the driven snow.

    I’ve never understood why monetary profit is distinguished from other types, as in, “What shall it profit a man to gain political power for his social class, and lose his own soul?”

    I’ve never understood it either, but the thought of somebody making money just drives lefties crazy.  Unless, of course, the person making the money is George Soros, or Tom Steyer, or anybody else who will use their money to promote leftism.  Then you get a special dispensation for engaging in the horror of capitalism.

    • #28
  29. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    All non-profits that keep their doors open are posting a profit, annually.

    Non profits are supposed to only apply basic and minimal operating structure where all money raised beyond that goes to the charity.

    But yes, we all know you can’t afford to hob nob with wealthy people desperate to prove their philanthropy on a 50k salary.

    • #29
  30. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Stad (View Comment):

    Great quote! I have a great life without experts (other than my wife) telling me how to live it . . .

    I have a T shirt that reads:

    “I DON’T NEED GOOGLE. MY WIFE KNOWS EVERYTHING!”

    • #30
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