The naive idea that twice of something is twice as valuable as one of that same something lingers on in popular culture and especially in politics. The ideas of diminishing returns and diminishing marginal utility are not widely enough understood.

French economist Yves Guyot never quite grasped the full import of these ideas, either. He should have. But he did stumble around them over and over in his work, and his glancing encounters are often instructive. For example, he knew that government, while necessary, necessarily serves interests counter to the public interest the larger it grows.

Why? Well, one way governments exhibits this “hormetic” effect is by its increasing inability to direct resources efficiently to the merely necessary-to-the-public needs . . . as it takes on more tasks. It is hard to manage, centrally, an ever-increasing task load. This opens up the bureaucracies to outright corruption and the politicians to ideological corruption by special interests — public goods manqué.

Monkey business.

As I read through his oeuvre, I will be picking out more nuggets of wisdom. Indeed, I have a big Guyot-related project in dev. More to come.

Yves Guyot on corruption.

Yves Guyot on an atavism.