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Extra resources for A Return to Free Market Economics?: Critical Essays on Government Intervention
But I see no reason for economists to assume that their task is less complex than that of others. Some sociologists, indeed, have claimed that they, too, can usefully predict inventions and technical progress. There are historians prepared to believe that history repeats A Return to Free Market Economics·' itself, that by discovering congruent past and present sets of circumstances, the future can be foreseen. I know of no means of disputing such claims by scholars in other fields except by reasoning which also cuts the ground from under the feet of the economist.
Much that will be done will inevitably be mistaken. The efficiency of an economic system seems likely to depend, not upon how few mistakes are made but how quickly they are recognised and with what dexterity they are repaired. Those who plan for the future on the assumption that events will bend themselves to their wishes, those who talk of nailing colours to masts, are likely to be as completely upset as a canoeist shooting dangerous rapids who contents himself with steering by the compass. The true economic security must lie in the power for making swift and sensitive adjustments.
It is melancholy that men and communities should be exposed to the anxieties and dangers of the unknowable future. But that is one of the facts oflife. It is my thesis that, in the last resort, the burdens that fall upon the men of action cannot, in fact, be lifted off their shoulders by economists who hold themselves out as capable of providing a service that they cannot, in fact, perform. On the supply side, economists are perhaps tempted to predict because the risks attendant upon failure are slight, the premiums on success great.