12/11/2019

Mises and Bastiat on How Democracy Goes Wrong, Part I

"Bastiat and Mises also recognize, as few modern economists do, that it is often implausible to see the public’s errors as mundane ignorance. If the electorate merely knew little about economics, its members should essentially be agnostic on the subject. In practice, however, they often enthusiastically support protectionism, labor market regulation, and other misguided policies in spite of their lack of study.

At the risk of being rude, both Bastiat and Mises characterize the opponents of basic economics as willfully illogical “fanatics” rather than simply uninformed. Mises does not disguise his irritation: “The fanatics obstinately refuse to listen to the teachings of economic theory. Experience fails to teach them anything. They stubbornly adhere to their previous opinions.” Bastiat is more eager to build a dialogue, but he too feels like he is up against a brick wall of dogmatism: “It is not my expectation that when the reader puts down this book he will cry out, ‘I know!’ Would to heaven that he might honestly say to himself, ‘I don’t know!'”"