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In Sumner's defense, here's Machlup, "Authorities or legislators charged with making the decisions have a right to know what an economist thinks, not about their likes and dislikes, but about the effects a particular measure, policy, or institution would be likely to have if it were adopted. Hence, the economist should frankly state what he would recommend if the constraint of “political feasibility” were removed, that is, if he could assume the absence of political resistances he thought were preventing the acceptance of certain proposals." — Fritz Machlup, “Why Economists Disagree,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 109, 1 (1954), p. 3. ______ While I've only had limited interaction with the public choice literature, it seems to me that the Austrian emphasis on the knowledge problem is more important than political incentive problems, at least of the kind that most people have in mind. For example, someone worrying about political incentives will distinguish between benevolent and non-benevolent rulers, but the former is just as incapable of efficiently allocating resources as the latter. I guess I can frame my point as a question. What's more important (not that either is unimportant), institutions that constrain immoral behavior or institutions that constrain action to set of choices where knowledge-induced inefficiencies are minimized? (This is a big reason why I'm so attracted to Jeffrey Friedman's application of radical ignorance to political theory.)
Sounds like a book I should ask my library to procure.
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Feb 10, 2013