… is from page 249 of my GMU Econ and Mercatus Center colleague Peter Boettke’s 2012 volume, Living Economics:
According to ancient legend, a Roman emperor was asked to judge a singing contest between two participants. After hearing the first contestant, the emperor gave the prize to the second on the assumption that the second could be no worse than the first. Of course, this assumption could have been wrong; the second singer might have been worse. The theory of market failure committed the same mistake as the emperor. Demonstrating that the market economy failed to live up to the ideals of general competitive equilibrium was one thing, but to gleefully assert that public action could costlessly correct the failure was quite another matter. Unfortunately, much analytical work proceeded in such a manner. Many scholars burst the bubble of this romantic vision of the political sector during the 1960s. But it was [James] Buchanan and Gordon Tullock who deserve the credit for shifting scholarly focus.
DBx: Yes. And because they played this role – and played it honestly, brilliantly, and with tenacity – both Buchanan (1919-2013) and Tullock (1922-2014) are despised by those who remain faithful to the dogma that the state is godlike. ‘Researchers’ who are either too dull-witted to grasp even the basics of public-choice scholarship, or who are hopelessly benighted by their religion, publish ridiculously distorted claims about Buchanan and Tullock and their work. Because these claims, if swallowed, protect from critical scrutiny dogmas that are dear to congregants of the Church of the State, these congregants repeat these claims uncritically.
Were public-choice scholarship dry and barren, it would be ignored. This scholarship would pose no real challenge to the dogmas of those persons, left and right, whose faith assures them that investing government officials with more power is a means of creating on earth something closer to heaven. The vicious, unscholarly, ad hominem, and downright ignorant attacks on Buchanan and Tullock and their work, and on their alleged motives, is proof as solid as proof gets that congregants of the Church of the State sense that public choice devastates their faith. So these congregants wildly attack public choice with all the fervor and intellectual soundness with which the most doctrinaire and bellowing backwoods preachers attack the theory of natural selection.