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Tag Archives: Virginia Political Economy

Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 303 of the 1999 Liberty Fund edition of James M. Buchanan’s and Gordon Tullock’s seminal 1962 book, The Calculus of Consent: The modern critic of constitutional democracy who calls for more direct operation of majority rule cannot, at the same time, rationally condemn modern man for his attention to selfish and short-run interests in the nation’s market place. If modern man is unduly interested in the emoluments of the affluent society (in creature comforts), he is not...

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 5 of the 1999 Liberty Fund edition of James M. Buchanan’s and Gordon Tullock’s seminal 1962 book, The Calculus of Consent: Economic theory does not explain the organization of private choices sufficiently to enable the professional economist to predict the precise composition of the national product, the exchange ratio between any two goods or services, or the price of any one good in terms of money. Such predictions would require omniscience, not science, because we must...

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I Don’t Understand Why this Simple Point Isn’t Immediately Obvious

Here’s a letter to a soon-to-be economics graduate student: Mr. Mendoza: Thanks for your e-mail. You’re correct that “economists discovered several explanations showing situations where free trade damages the economy.” But you’re incorrect to conclude that these explanations should therefore guide real-world policy. These explanations are all white-board wonders, irrelevant to reality. If you allow me to assume that government officials have superhuman knowledge and angelic motivations,...

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 4 of the 1999 Liberty Fund edition of James M. Buchanan’s and Gordon Tullock’s seminal 1962 book, The Calculus of Consent: In a genuine sense, economic theory is also a theory of collective choice, and, as such, provides us with an explanation of how separate individual interests are reconciled through the mechanism of trade or exchange. Indeed, when individual interests are assumed to be identical, the main body of economic theory vanishes. If all men were equal interest...

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from an e-mail sent to me yesterday by my GMU Econ colleague Dick Wagner (quoted here with his kind permission). Earlier in the day I’d e-mailed Dick telling him of the challenge that I’m having writing a paper to clearly explain just what Jim Buchanan meant when he criticized Anglo-American economists for analyzing the taxing (“factor-market”) side of a government’s budget separately from the spending (“product-market”) side; Buchanan sought to build a “bridge” between these two...

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Give Me Wise Over Smart Any Day

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal: Editor: Benn Steil’s review of Zachary Carter’s sympathetic and, I gather, excellent biography of John Maynard Keynes is a gem (“‘The Price of Peace’ Review: The Economic Engineer,” May 8). One small addition to the record, however, is in order. Unquestionably, Keynes’s mind was a quick and capacious marvel, and his pen often poetic. But a whopper I.Q. and the resulting intellectual dexterity do not guarantee wisdom. And when fashioning public...

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 122 of George Will’s splendid 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility (footnote deleted): Can a federal government that acknowledges no limits to its scope, and that responds promiscuously to the multiplying appetites of proliferating factions, make choices that serve the society’s long-term interests? The answer, based on the avalanche of evidence from current governance, is an emphatic “no.” The evidence is in the rise of the administrative state and the fall of fiscal...

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 309 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan’s 1980 paper “Procedural and Quantitative Constitutional Constraints on Fiscal Authority,” as this paper is reprinted in Choice, Contract, and Constitutions (2001), which is volume 16 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan (original emphasis): The need for additional fiscal restraints did not become apparent until the empirical-historical record began to suggest that the nonfiscal constraints had failed....

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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 6 of the original edition of the late Nobel-laureate economist James M. Buchanan’s 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty (original emphasis): That is “good” which “tends to emerge” from the free choices of the individuals who are involved. It is impossible for an external observer to lay down criteria for “goodness” independently of the process through which results or outcomes are attained. The evaluation is applied to the means of attaining outcomes, not to outcomes as such....

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Some Links

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan points out that states don’t lack capacity; they lack good priorities. And see also Bryan’s follow-up post. My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy is rightly flabbergasted at the apparent economic stupidity of some politicians – specifically, here, those in San Francisco. A slice: San Francisco politicians constantly treat reality as if it’s optional. For instance, through strict zoning and other land-use regulations, they have...

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