Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Economics in Service of the State

"Statistics is a vital, though much underplayed, requisite of modern government. Government could not even presume to control, regulate, or plan any portion of the economy without the service of its statistical bureaus and agencies. Deprive government of its statistics and it would be a blind and helpless giant,with no idea whatever of what to do or where to do it. It might be replied that business firms, too, need statistics in order to function. But business needs for statistics are far less in quantity and also different in quality. Business may need statistics in its own micro area of the economy, but only on its prices and costs; it has little need for broad collections of data or for sweeping, holistic aggregates. Business could perhaps rely on its own privately collected and unshared data. Furthermore, much entrepreneurial knowledge is qualitative, not enshrined in quantitative data, and of a particular time, area, and location. But government bureaucracy could do nothing if forced to be confined to qualitative data. Deprived of profit and loss tests for efficiency, or of the need to serve consumers efficiently, conscripting both capital and operating costs form taxpayers, and forced to abide by fixed, bureaucratic rules, modern government shorn of masses of statistics could do virtually nothing."

Murray Rothbard,"World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals," The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IX, No. 1 (Winter 1989)

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