James Buchanan and the Properly Trained Economist

23 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2018 Last revised: 1 Jul 2018

See all articles by Peter J. Boettke

Peter J. Boettke

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Rosolino Candela

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: May 24, 2018

Abstract

Throughout his career, James Buchanan displayed a remarkable consistency regarding the didactic role of the properly trained economist. As he would say, it takes varied iterations to force alien concepts upon reluctant minds. What he regarded as the role of the properly trained economist is just a variation on his understanding of constitutional political economy. According to Buchanan, properly trained economists occupy dual, roles as economic scientists and political economists. As economic scientists they understand how spontaneous orders emerge as a result of self-interested behavior under alternative institutional arrangements. As political economists they may propose changes to existing institutions for the purpose of better facilitating the mutually shared goals among free and responsible individuals. Such proposals are not technical advice to a benevolent dictator, but conjectures about Pareto improvements to be tested through democratic deliberation. These related, but distinct, roles, have a non-normative and didactic basis, which is to teach citizens of a democratic society that there are opportunities for mutual gains from trade.

Keywords: James Buchanan; Economic Science; Political Economy

JEL Classification: B31; B41; D01

Suggested Citation

Boettke, Peter J. and Candela, Rosolino, James Buchanan and the Properly Trained Economist (May 24, 2018). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 18-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3189882 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3189882

Peter J. Boettke

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-1149 (Phone)
703-993-1133 (Fax)

Rosolino Candela (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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