The Political Economy of Buchanan's Samaritan's Dilemma
20 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2022
Date Written: June 24, 2022
Written by James Buchanan in the early 1970s, “The Samaritan's Dilemma” is a pessimistic essay, marked by his author's negative views about the situation in Western societies at that time. Yet, the situation described in this essay also fits into Buchanan’s approach of cooperation and free-riding. Put differently, it is perfectly with Buchanan’s views in public economics. This is what we aim at showing in this short article. Our demonstration develops in two parts. First, we show that Buchanan's main argument about cooperation in the provision of public goods or removal of externalities necessarily leads to situations such as the one described in the Samaritan's dilemma. Second, we show that Buchanan did not take the situation seriously until the end of the 1960s, a few years before he wrote his essay on the dilemma.
Keywords: Buchanan, samaritan's dilemma, cooperation, exploitation, numbers, public goods, externalities
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