… is from page 144 of my colleague Charles Rowley’s essay “The Legacy of Keynes: from the General Theory to Generalized Budget Deficits,” which is chapter 8 in the important 1987 collection Deficits (James M. Buchanan, Charles K. Rowley, & Robert D. Tollison, eds). Today’s quotation is a response from Charles to Lawrence Klein‘s hubris-fueled celebration of Keynes’s General Theory; said Klein, “On the face of it [The General Theory], it may appear a major triumph in the march of human reason: a diametric and irreversible extension of the boundaries of political responsibility” – to which Charles replies (footnote omitted and link added):
Not all economists, however, are philosopher-kings. Those specialized in public choice recognized from the early 1960s onwards the dangerous discretion allocated to political markets by the abandonment of the budget balance constraint. For, with the tax constraint on the growth of government removed, or weakened, the cost to special interests of persuading legislatures to broker policies favourable to their membership significantly declined. If the multiplier appeared to offer free lunches, there would surely be plenty of citizens with hungry bellies only too ready to wait in line.