Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on January 9, 2014

in Economics, Politics

… is from Jim Buchanan, who died one year ago today.  This quotation is from page 80 of the reprint, in volume 1 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty, of Jim’s August 1954 Journal of Political Economy article, “Individual Choice in Voting and the Market” (footnote excluded):

The responsibility for market decisions is uniquely concentrated on the chooser; there can be no abstention.  There is a tangible benefit as well as a cost involved in each market chooser’s decision, while there is neither an immediately realizable and certain benefit nor an imputable cost normally involved in the voter’s choice.  This difference tends to guarantee that a more precise and objective consideration of alternative costs takes place in the minds of individuals choosing in the market.

This insight was later and very productively applied and extended by (among others, but especially) Gordon Tullock (1971), Mike DeBow and Dwight Lee (1988), Geoff Brennan and Loren Lomasky (1993), and Bryan Caplan (2007).

Economics would be a far more relevant and advanced discipline if more economists had Jim Buchanan’s philosophical depth – or even if more economists were familiar with Buchanan’s works (rather than only with what most economists, usually mistakenly, think are Buchanan’s insights).

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