Public choice is about understanding the rules of the political game. Romantic notions of politics suggest that what is in the public good is obvious—or at least that it would be if we could get rid of corruption/greed/that one jerk—and that politicians will have no difficulty in setting aside their personal interests in pursuit of that good. Public choice economists take the alternative view that successful collective action is hard to pull off. Even when a large group can agree on a best course of action, the individuals involved will struggle to set aside their diverse, deeply embedded, and often mutually conflicting personal interests in order to pursue that course. Although this may sound discouraging, the optimistic heart of public choice is the idea that ifRead More »
Articles by Jayme Lemke
In his newest book—free to read online until March 17!—Chris Coyne offers thoughtful discussion on the extensive contributions to the study of war, defense, and peace that have been made by classical economists, Austrian economists, and others in the mainline tradition. The book is not long, but it is extensive. War is unfortunately an enduring human tradition. As such, economists classical and modern have had a lot to say about the great range of conflicts we’ve gotten ourselves into and the equally great range of defense strategies we’ve used to try to get ourselves out.
Defense, of course, should be in scare-quotes here. Defensive military actions are not always a force for peace and in fact can be downright predatory and destructive. If historical examples
In a recent post, I shared some background on Hannah Mather Crocker’s Observations on the Real Rights of Women (1818) and thoughts on why it has been so overlooked by history. Although there aren’t a lot of quotables from Crocker that are likely to take Twitter by storm, she was an avid defender of women’s intellectual and moral capabilities. Further, she made arguments from within her time that defended women taking on advisory, religious, and civil leadership roles. I’d like to share just a few of those here.
Crocker was critical of those “few groveling minds who think woman should not aspire to any further knowledge than to obtain enough of the cymical art to enable them to compound a good pudding, pie, or cake, for her lord and master to discompound” (p. 18).
Sometimes women’s contributions to the political and economic life of past centuries are overlooked, not because they were minor, but simply because they were seen as stories of daily ‘domestic’ life and therefore inherently less significant than accounts of war, conquest, and statecraft. Since the 1960s, there has been a movement within the discipline of history to correct these omissions. Historians like Gerda Lerner, Anna Firor Scott, Deborah Gray White, and so many more began the work of filling in forgotten and otherwise neglected aspects of history, often in the newly emerging subfields of women’s history and black history.
However, despite all the excellent work that has been done over the past sixty years, there are still gaps in our knowledge. TheRead More »
There is something about the history of war, conquest, and statecraft that captures the imagination. Histories of the great deeds of great men fill history textbooks and serve as inspiration for monuments, national parks, documentaries, movies, and plays. For those who think history matters, this lopsided emphasis can be problematic in a number of ways. The history of war, conquest, and statecraft tends to be written by the victor. Consequently, the stories of those who lost the war or were conquered or overridden at important constitutional moments can easily be lost. Without these stories, we may be unaware of particular costs that have been paid in history, and wind up giving too much credit or not enough blame to particular strategies or practices.
One of theRead More »
In The Underside of History: A View of Women Through Time, Elise Boulding writes,
“In fact, one of the notable historical features of oppression is that the downtrodden comply in their oppression. The discovery by the oppressed that they have power is the discovery that they can gain a kind of dominance through the withdrawal of compliance. This is the power of the women’s liberation movement, and of all liberation movements” (p. 48).
With these words, Boulding proposes a mechanism for social change—a way to explain how it is that people currently living in circumstances of oppression might come to shift the balance of power in their favor. This is a mechanism for social change that is proposed with a dominance system in mind. Unlike egalitarian systems—meaningRead More »
Richard Wagner’s latest book is not about James M. Buchanan. At least not in the way you’d expect given the title: James M. Buchanan and Liberal Political Economy: A Rational Reconstruction. Wagner has written elsewhere that economics is a discipline that “deals with thoughts, not with things,”[i] and he has stayed true to that approach here, writing an intellectual biography that is about Buchanan’s ideas first and his work and person second. The result is a masterful work that invites both the experienced and the novice student of political economy to think about democracy, self-governance, and constitutional processes in new ways.
A rational reconstruction of a rich scholarly life like Buchanan’s is no simple task. The biographical pieces are the easy part. The hard part is absorbing a
This is the fourth and final entry in a series of conversations with scholars in the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
In this installment, I am joined by Peter Boettke, University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University and Director of the Hayek Program. In this conversation, Pete and I discuss the commonalities between the three approaches to understanding the social world discussed previously in this series: Austrian economics, public choice economics, and the Bloomington School’s multiple-methods, real-world approach to institutional analysis.
The reason why these three approaches are often used together is that although they bring different perspectives and sets of
Steven Horwitz, Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social InstitutionsJuly 5, 2016
Book review of Steven Horwitz’s book, Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).Find the book review at Springer Link.Read More »
Married women in the early nineteenth century United States were not permitted to own property, enter into contracts without their husband’s permission, or stand in court as independent persons. This severely limited married women’s ability to engage in formal business ventures, collect rents, administer estates, and manage bequests through wills. By the dawn of the twentieth century, legal reform in nearly every state had removed these restrictions by extending formal legal and economic rights to married women. Legal reform being by nature a public good with dispersed benefits, what forces impelled legislators to undertake the costs of action? In this paper, I argue that interjurisdictional competition between states and territories in the nineteenth century was instrumental in motivating these reforms. Two conditions are necessary for interjurisdictional competition to function: (1) law-makers must hold a vested interest in attracting population to their jurisdictions, and (2) residents must be able to actively choose between the products of different jurisdictions. Using evidence from the passage of the Married Women’s Property Acts, I find that legal reforms were adopted first and in the greatest strength in those regions in which there was active interjurisdictional competition.Find the article at Springer Link.Read More »