James M. Buchanan and the Public Choice Tradition

24 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2021 Last revised: 22 Jul 2021

See all articles by Art Carden

Art Carden

Brock School of Business, Samford University; Independent Institute

M. Scott King

George Mason University, Department of Economics, Students

Audrey Redford

Western Carolina University - College of Business

James Hanley

Independent

Date Written: July 16, 2021

Abstract

James M. Buchanan’s 1969 book Cost and Choice speaks directly to the socialist calculation debate from the perspective of the “London Tradition” in the theory of cost. It also places Buchanan alongside Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman as an exemplar of what Thomas Sowell called “the constrained vision” in his 1987 [2007] book A Conflict of Visions. This essay explores Buchanan’s radical subjectivism in Cost and Choice, why it aligns him with Sowell’s “constrained vision,” and what this implies about Buchanan’s place within political theory generally. His radically subjectivist analysis of cost underlies his constitutional liberalism, obviating a more activist, interventionist political agenda. Furthermore, combining Buchanan’s subjectivism with Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions can help us better understand Buchanan’s earlier critiques of welfare economics. Thus, we posit that Cost and Choice has continued relevance for the public choice tradition in addition to its contributions to Austrian economics.

Keywords: Cost, subjectivism, Buchanan, social theory, classical liberalism, choice, London School of Economics, Austrian Economics

JEL Classification: A12, B25, B31, H11

Suggested Citation

Carden, Art and King, M. Scott and Redford, Audrey and Hanley, James, James M. Buchanan and the Public Choice Tradition (July 16, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3756493 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3756493

Art Carden

Brock School of Business, Samford University ( email )

800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.artcarden.com

Independent Institute ( email )

100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
United States

M. Scott King

George Mason University, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Fairfax, VA
United States

Audrey Redford (Contact Author)

Western Carolina University - College of Business ( email )

United States

James Hanley

Independent ( email )

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