Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 22, 2017

in Politics, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 49 of my late Nobel laureate colleague Jim Buchanan‘s 1979 article “Politics Without Romance,” as it is reprinted in volume 1 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty:

But most of the scholars who have been instrumental in developing public choice theory have themselves been trained initially as economists.  There has been, therefore, a tendency for these scholars to bring with them models of man that have been found useful within economic theory, models that have been used to develop empirically testable and empirically corroborated hypotheses.  These models embody the presumption that persons seek to maximize their own utilities, and that their own narrowly-defined economic well-being is an important component of these utilities.  At this point, however, I do not want to enter into either a defense of or an attack on the usefulness of Homo economics ,either in economics or in any theory of politics.  I would say only, as I have many times before, that the burden of proof should rest with those who suggest that wholly different models of man apply in the political and the economic realms of behavior.  Logical consistency suggests that, at least initially, we examine the implications of using the same models in different settings.

DBx: This aspect of public-choice scholarship was repeated often by Buchanan (and by other public-choice scholars).  And while it’s not a difficult point to grasp, Nancy MacLean – judging from her book Democracy in Chains – apparently either missed this point or is unable to grasp it.


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