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Can liberty survive the government’s expansion into the economy? What if that expansion is done by thoughtful, enlightened and zealous experts? John Stuart Mill did not think so.

If the roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint-stock companies, the universities, and the public charities, were all of them branches of the government; if, in addition, the municipal corporations and local boards, with all that now devolves on them, became departments of the central administration; if the employes of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the government, and looked to the government for every rise of life; not all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of the legislature would make this or any other country free otherwise than in name.” And the evil would be greater, the more efficiently and scientifically the administrative machinery was constructed —  the more skillful the arrangements for obtaining the best qualified hands and heads with which to work it.

I thought of that line when I was reflecting on Chairman Ben’s fiddling with the monetary system, the hiring of really smart Harvard people to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and to work as economic advisors, and so on …

HT: Friedrich Hayek


3 Responses to “Mill on the Modern Expert State”

  1. Harry says:

    Progressives dismiss John Stuart Mill as unmodern, unlike systematic thinkers like Nietzsche or big idea guys like Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    This hubris has been compounded by the computer spreadsheet, and no, I am not arguing to go back to the good old Luddite days.

  2. jb says:

    The old Soviet “input output” models were actually quite impressive and sophisticated — and about as useful as a two story outhouse.

  3. Harry says:

    Mill on anything beats Mill on the Floss, jb.

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