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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 322 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan’s September 1977 paper, “Tax Reform in ‘Constitutional’ Perspective,” as this article is reprinted in Choice, Contract, and Constitutions (2001), which is volume 16 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan:

Predictable rules within which individuals may rationally plan their activities are part of the “public capital” of any society.

DBx: The point is too seldom made that a society whose members rely largely on legislation, as well as on administrative-state commands and prohibitions, is a society in which the predictability of the rules will be less than in a society that relies more on evolved law and conventions.  A premise of many, if not all, of those who admire a ‘vigorous’ or ‘activist’ state is that such a state can ‘remake’ society – can by design and state action “change the world” for the good.  Such hubris is dangerous.  An uncertain regime of rules, one always subject to change based on changes in political personnel or on political manias, is a public bad.

Government is often declared to be the only reliable supplier of “public goods.”  This declaration is far more aspirational than it is empirical.  In fact, government too often undermines the provision of public goods, even as it does so in the name of supplying public goods.


One of the now-classic explanations of “regime uncertainty” and its dangers is this 1997 article by Bob Higgs.