Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Words Worth Committing to Memory

I discovered the following quotation, attributed to David Hume, while reading Julie Novak's Public Choice Theory: An Introduction, which I came across while searching for a decent primer for use in enlightening a certain party.

In contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controuls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this interest, we must govern him, and, by means of it, make him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, co-operate to public good. Without this, ... we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution, and shall find, in the end, that we have no security for our liberties or possessions, except the good-will of our rulers; that is, we shall have no security at all (Hume, [1741] (1985): 43).

If you've heard about public choice theory and don't know what the fuss is about, or if you've been witness to some irate liberal's attack on public choice theory as a system of thought, I highly suggest reading Novak's article. Heck, I suggest reading it with an open mind even if you fancy yourself a committed liberal; it is always beneficial, I think, to test one's conceptions against the arguments of others. Nietschze once said "What does not kill me makes me stronger", and in the realm of ideas, at least, he was absolutely right.