Rediscovering Buchanan’s Rediscovery: Non-Market Exchange Versus Antiseptic Allocation
Forthcoming, Public Choice, 2020.
32 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020
Date Written: March 31, 2020
While Buchanan is best known for the economics of politics and constitutions, his seminal contributions to this field are but one branch of his more underlying methodology and approach to doing social science. Buchanan’s fundamental project was to re-orient economics and social science toward an analysis of symbiotic exchange (catallactics) rather than of antiseptic allocation (optimization). The most definite statement of this contribution lies in Buchanan’s 1963 presidential address to the Southern Economic Association, “What Should Economists Do?” which was later expanded into a book of the same title. This paper seeks to draw attention to several of Buchanan’s more recent but lesser known articles where he fully develops this theme. He calls on economists to rediscover Adam Smith’s “elementary notion” about the division of labor and the extent of the market, and he professes the notion of “generalized increasing returns” as a mechanism for economists to rediscover their Scottish Enlightenment roots within the neoclassical framework. In this same vein, we also discuss how Buchanan’s rediscovery might apply to two prominent and ongoing twenty-first century issues, trade restrictions and populism.
Keywords: Buchanan, catallactics, collective action, public choice
JEL Classification: B31, B40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation