… is from page 354 of James Buchanan’s 1968 contribution to the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, “Debt, Public,” as this essay is reprinted in Debt and Taxes (2000), which is volume 14 of the The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan:
The core of the fallacy lies in the equating of the community as a unit, in some aggregated national accounting sense, with the individuals-in-the-community, in some political sense as participants, direct or indirect, in collective decision making.
DBx: Just because two or more people choose to come together to supply for themselves some good or service that they will share – as, for example, three neighbors of mine once did when they pitched in to jointly buy a snow blower – does not imply that those people have thereby become a single entity with sentience or with a set of preferences that make them, as a group, akin to any of the flesh-and-blood individuals who comprise the group.
This truth, admittedly, is subtle. It is also vital. Failure to make this distinction has been, and continues to be, a source of mischief and even tyranny. And this truth holds no less when the individuals in question are compelled together to supply ‘collective’ goods than when they come together each voluntarily.