Are Two Knaves Better than One? Every Man a Knave: Hume, Buchanan, and Musgrave's View on Economics and Government

History of Political Economy. Vol. 37, pp. 71-90, 2005

Posted: 24 Sep 2010

See all articles by Maria Pia Paganelli

Maria Pia Paganelli

Trinity University

Andrew Farrant

Dickinson College - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 15, 2005

Abstract

It is commonplace to view market agents as self-interested knaves, while government agents are either as knaves or public-spirited angels. What are the consequences of these different motivational assumptions in modeling governmental and market behavior? We compare David Hume, James M. Buchanan, and Richard Musgrave. We claim that Hume, the only one thinking consistently in terms of the worst-case, offers a second best solution for both the government and the economy, which may turn out to be the best possible solution given human nature. Because of the reciprocal check, two knaves are better than one. More is preferred to less even with vices…

Suggested Citation

Paganelli, Maria Pia and Farrant, Andrew, Are Two Knaves Better than One? Every Man a Knave: Hume, Buchanan, and Musgrave's View on Economics and Government (December 15, 2005). History of Political Economy. Vol. 37, pp. 71-90, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1316594

Maria Pia Paganelli (Contact Author)

Trinity University ( email )

Dept. of Economics
One Trinity Place
San Antonio, TX 78212
United States

Andrew Farrant

Dickinson College - Department of Economics ( email )

Room 120, Althouse Hall
Carlisle, PA 17013
United States

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