… is from my late colleague Jim Buchanan’s 1986 Nobel Prize lecture, “The Constitution of Economic Policy“:
Many critics of the “economic theory of politics” base their criticisms on the presumption that such theory necessarily embodies the hypothesis of net wealth maximization, an hypothesis that they observe to be falsified in many situations. Overly zealous users of this theory may have sometimes offered grounds for such misinterpretation on the part of critics. The minimal critical assumption for the explanatory power of the economic theory of politics is only that identifiable economic self-interest (e.g., net wealth, income, social position) is a positively valued “good” to the individual chooses. This assumption does not place economic interest in a dominating position and it surely does not imply imputing evil or malicious motives to political actors; in this respect the theory remains on all fours with the motivational structure of the standard economic theory of market behavior.
Clearly, if National Book Award nominee Nancy MacLean actually read the Nobel Prize address of the man about whom she wrote her nominated book, she either lacks the mental capacity to grasp what is said in that address or she wrote about Buchanan having recklessly forgotten what she read. (I cannot believe another possibility, namely, that she, a professional historian, would write a book – Democracy in Chains – in which Jim Buchanan is the central character without bothering actually to read Buchanan’s Nobel lecture.)