For the moment, one would have thought that the human heart itself was about to undergo a great transformation and, shaking off the yoke of self-interest, would henceforth be guided by nothing less than the purest forms of self-sacrifice.
Frédéric Bastiat uses irony about the French Revolution of February 1848 to expose the major mistake consisting in the will to impose people’s goodness as a solution. This error is still around nowadays. Goodness is definitely a widespread quality in the world and I am happy about it. Unfortunately, it is not the only quality around and when trying to build institutions, it is essential that goodness is not a requirement for them to perform.
Today’s quote reminds me of Milton Friedman appropriating this idea when he advocated for limiting government powers, explaining (unfortunately, I do not have a quote – please do not hesitate to offer a reference in the comments section) that one should not rely on a providential man for government to perform properly but, on the contrary, that one should make sure that institutions can run properly even if a complete moron were at the helm.
Other quotes from Wages:
Middleman – Self-interest – Respect – Perfection – Decision – Responsibility – Inequalities