Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 20, 2017

in Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 19 of my late Nobel laureate colleague James Buchanan’s 1983 article “The Public Choice Perspective,” 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:

There are important normative implications to be derived from the public choice perspective on politics, implications that, in their turn, carry with them an approach to institutional reform.  To the extent that voluntary exchange among persons is valued positively while coercion is valued negatively, there emerges the implication that substitution of the former for the latter is desired, on the presumption, of course, that such substitution is technologically feasible and is not prohibitively costly in resources.  This implication provides the normative thrust for the proclivity of the public choice economist to favor market-like arrangements where these seem feasible, and to favor decentralization of political authority in appropriate situations.

DBx: Only someone completely ignorant of the most basic tenets of economics from Adam Smith forward – and ignorant also of the history of the great debates over the centuries between those who, on one side, attach little or no value to individual freedom and those who, on the other side, value individual freedom as an end in itself (that is, for reasons beyond whatever instrumental uses such freedom might have for society) – could even begin to infer from Buchanan’s normative stance the utterly mistaken conclusion that he was an enemy of the many and a friend only of the privileged few.  And perhaps more to the point, that someone – even if she has produced a book that is purported to be about the work and influence of Jim Buchanan – either has not really read much of Buchanan’s work, or, if she has read much of it, is unable or unwilling to understand it.


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