Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 1, 2017

in Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 3 of the original edition of my late colleague James M. Buchanan’s insightful 1967 volume, Public Finance in Democratic Process (footnote deleted):

Individuals, separately and in groups, make decisions concerning the use of economic resources.  They do so in at least two capacities: first, as purchasers (sellers) of goods and services in organized markets, and, secondly, as “purchasers” (“sellers”) of goods and services through organized political processes.  Economic theory has been developed largely to explain the workings of organized markets, and the trained economist understands how decentralized decisions are mutually co-ordinated so as to produce allocative results that are internally consistent.  Economists, especially English and American, have devoted little time and effort to an explanation of individual behavior in the second decision process.  Individual participation in collective decision-making has not been thoroughly analyzed, and the means through which the separate private choices are combined to produce “social” or “collective” outcomes have not been subject to careful and critical research.  This relative emphasis on the interaction process in private markets was, to some degree, justifiable so long as organized markets retained overwhelming allocative importance.  But when more than one-fourth of all products, even in those economies that are presumably noncollectivist, is destined to be used for collective rather than for private purposes, some modification in the emphasis seems in order.

DBx: If anyone is seriously searching for the origins of public-choice scholarship, this opening paragraph of the “Introduction” to Jim Buchanan’s 1967 volume supplies as direct and as plausible a clue as possible.  All of the reckless speculations of Nancy MacLean – reckless speculations that point, without evidence, to unmentioned desires to institutionalize racism, Southern Agrarianism, and plutocracy – are rendered absurd when considered along side the obvious explanation supplied above by Jim Buchanan himself.

Jim’s 1967 volume, by the way, is mentioned nowhere in Nancy MacLean’s book – a book that is allegedly about Jim Buchanan and his work.


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