Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 11, 2017

in Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 56 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 politics differs categorically from markets in that, in political competition, there are mutually exclusive sets of losers and winners.  Only one candidate or party wins; all others lose.  Only one party is the governing party.  One way of stating the basic difference here is to say that, in economic exchange, decisions are made at the margin, in terms of more or less, whereas in politics, decisions are made among mutually exclusive alternatives, in terms of all-or-none prospects.

DBx: In markets, consumers who don’t like, say, the service or style of Trump hotels can avoid those hotels and instead stay at the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, or wherever – or not stay at hotels at all – even while other consumers continue to stay in Trump hotels.  In politics, every U.S. citizen must live under a Trump presidency if Trump convinces a significant sub-set of U.S. citizens to vote for him.  And unlike with hotels (and other goods and services supplied by the market), no two (or more) presidents or prime ministers or senators or governors actually perform in competition with each other side by side, at the same time, under the same circumstances.  It’s much more difficult to judge the performance of a politician than it is to judge the performance of a private business.


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