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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 115 of my late Nobel laureate colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1983 article “The Achievement and the Limits of Public Choice in Diagnosing Government Failure and in Offering Bases for Constructive Reform,” as this article is reprinted in James M. Buchanan, Politics as Public Choice (2000), which is volume 13 of the Collected Works of James M. Buchanan; those who are unfamiliar with, or who reject, the public-choice perspective invariably compare real-world – and, hence, imperfect – market outcomes with imagined ideal government-generated outcomes; such comparisons always find real-world markets to be inferior to idealized, imaginary government ‘solutions’; Buchanan and other public-choice scholars worked to correct this bias in the analyses of policies, a bias that runs throughout much of modern welfare economics:

Public Choice theory, in its redress of the imbalance in the institutional comparisons informed by and inspired by welfare economics, has shifted the pendulum “rightward,” so to speak.  A comparison of market and government alternatives, both examined “warts and all,” and without the “benevolent despot” blinders on, will necessarily produce a private sector – public sector mix less dominated by the public sector that that mix that might have been generated on the basis of prevailing ideas in, say, 1950 or 1960.  Such a change in comparative results has nothing to do with any shift in the underlying ideology or nonideology of Public Choice, or of anything else.  The change in question emerges strictly from a better-informed comparison of relevant alternatives.