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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 196 of George Will’s important 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility: The quantity of political ignorance matters because voting is not merely an act of individual choice. It also is the exercise of power over others. DBx: Yes. The negative externality that I worry about most – that I worry about far more than I worry about, say, carbon emissions, pollution spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, or overfishing – is that which is not merely enabled by, but positively encouraged by, an ethic of democratic majoritarianism: majority rule that is largely constitutionally unconstrained. To give you a say in my life and me a say in yours – to give Jones a vote in how Smith’s money is spent to affect Jackson’s life – is to create negative externalities of the worst sort. Yet save

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… is from page 196 of George Will’s important 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:

Quotation of the Day…The quantity of political ignorance matters because voting is not merely an act of individual choice. It also is the exercise of power over others.

DBx: Yes.

The negative externality that I worry about most – that I worry about far more than I worry about, say, carbon emissions, pollution spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, or overfishing – is that which is not merely enabled by, but positively encouraged by, an ethic of democratic majoritarianism: majority rule that is largely constitutionally unconstrained.

To give you a say in my life and me a say in yours – to give Jones a vote in how Smith’s money is spent to affect Jackson’s life – is to create negative externalities of the worst sort. Yet save for the teensy-weensy handful of people familiar with public-choice scholarship, almost no one even recognizes majoritarianism as being a source of negative externalities, much less worries about its resulting ill-consequences.

Indeed, and highly ironically, it is to this very system – majoritarianism – that people naively turn to ‘internalize’ the likes of carbon emissions and other negative externalities, real and imagined. This move is akin to putting in charge of ridding a school of sexual predators a habitual child molester.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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