By Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson is probably the most logical mind I know, so it pains me when he keeps insisting that:
As an analysis tool, economic efficiency is designed and well-suited to finding win-win deals that get us all more of what we want.
This is complete nonsense. Economic efficiency is designed and well-suited to helping people who want the efficient outcome. It is equally true to say that economic efficiency is designed and well-suited to hurting people who don’t want the efficient outcome. Some of us are clearly in the latter category. How then can Robin keep saying that economic efficiency helps “get us all more of what we want”?!
Update: In the comments, Robin gives his standard “distributive problems tend to cancel out” response. I ignored this argument this because my objection already takes it into account. Yes, some distributive problems cancel out, increasing the fraction of the population that wants the efficient outcome. But this hardly means that they cancel out for everyone – or even that everyone can reasonably expect to benefit from efficient reforms ex ante. In the real world, there will always be some people who prefer the status quo to the efficient outcome. It might be convenient to ignore their existence, but that doesn’t make them go away.