Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on May 12, 2019

in Myths and Fallacies, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 7 of the 2000 Liberty Fund reissue of Geoffrey Brennan’s and James M. Buchanan’s 1980 volume, The Power to Tax:

Social-choice theorists have attempted to define reasonable properties that might be expected for a “social” or “governmental choice function.” However, all such efforts have foundered on the central contradiction involved in any shift from the preference or value rankings of a single person to an ordering designed to reflect the potential choice bases for a group or community of persons.

DBx: Yes.

There is no “will of the people.” “The people” as such – unlike an individual or household – have no set of preferences. Individuals can share with each other – even with multitudes of others – a language, religious beliefs, cultural attitudes, notions of right and wrong, and expectations of how each other will act under different circumstances. Yet such a sharing does not generate a single set of preferences for collections of individuals.


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