Economics
Between Predictive Science and Moral Philosophy
Economics
6 x 9, 432 pp.
28 line drawings.
Pub Date: 06/01/2000
Texas A&M University Economics Series
  paper
Price:        $25.95 s

978-0-89096-992-2
  cloth
Price:        $49.95 s

978-0-89096-350-0

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Economics

Between Predictive Science and Moral Philosophy

By James M. Buchanan

This book presents twenty-six of the major papers of 1986 Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan, who played a key role in the development of "theoretical institutional economics" and was awarded the Nobel Prize in economic science for his contributions to a theory of political economy as well as his leadership of the public choice movement. These articles, written from the early 1950s to the mid-1980s and spanning various subfields of economics from public finance to methodology, form the core of Buchanan's work. In each paper the constitutional economics paradigm--viewed by the author as a modern revival of classical political economy--is modified, extended, and applied to particular issues. Contemporary economics grew out of the eighteenth century's moral philosophy--today's social science. Over years of disciplinary separation and specialization within the social sciences, economics has increasingly moved away from the issues about which its founders were concerned, issues that are central to the identity of the economic paradigm. A particular target of criticism has been the tendency to define and analyze economic processes as if they occur in an institutional vacuum. A number of new theoretical developments--among them public choice and the new political economy--have been initiated to refocus economists' attention to the institutional framework of economic activity.

Buchanan is perhaps best known as a man who changed the ideas of a generation of scholars about the way the social and economic world works. Rather than working within a tradition, he created his own in the Virginia school of political economy. Aside from published works, his influence has been felt in lectures, conferences, and comments on his colleagues' work.

This book will be valuable both to first-time readers of Buchanan's writings and to those already familiar with his contributions to economics.

James M. Buchanan is Harris University Professor and General Director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. Among his previously published books is Freedom in Constitutional Contract: Perspectives of a Political Economist

Robert D. Tollison is professor of economics and director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, and Viktor J. Vanberg is associate professor of economics, George Mason University.

What Readers Are Saying:

"These essays, although representing decades of work in a wide variety of areas, successfully convey Buchanan's major theme: a nation's institutional and political structure is crucial in the conduct of its economic activities. . . . Recommended primarily for graduate libraries in economics or other libraries with similar patrons.”--Richard C. Schimming

"These essays, although representing decades of work in a wide variety of areas, successfully convey Buchanan's major theme: a nation's institutional and political structure is crucial in the conduct of its economic activities. . . . Recommended primarily for graduate libraries in economics or other libraries with similar patrons.” --Richard C. Schimming

"James M. Buchanan won a Nobel Prize for his seemingly heretical attempts to make economics study something vaguely resembling the real world. I say 'heretical' because economics has become for most people--including some economists--an abstruse discipline in which professors generate exotic formulas, employ baffling mathematical techniques and produce incomprehensible 'models' designed to tell politicians how to run a society. . . . This is a wonderful book, filled with essays that make one sigh with awe and exhaustion. If you're interested in a Nobel laureate's quest to make economics a more serious discipline, and you're willing to commit some time to essays on topics technical and philosophical, this book's for you." --Tony Snow

"Buchanan's attempt to do so is neither predictive science nor moral philosophy. It isn't predictive science because it doesn't pretend to trace out how actual individual interests produce economic phenomena, only how they might affect political outcomes. It isn't moral philsophy because its aim is not to identify the morally best constitution, but rather the one that will reconcile our individual interests most fully, whether those interests are morally worthy or not. Whence the title of this valuable collection of papers." --Alexander Rosenberg

"Buchanan maintains that the restoration of the moral order requires the 'rollback of governmental intrusions into the lives of citizens.' Simple Reaganism? Perhaps. But it may be foolish to dismiss Buchanan with a partisan label. Foolish, also, to ignore his suggestion for a modest role for economists: to predict not specific outcomes, but the effects various economic arrangements have upon the choices of individuals.” --The Wilson Quarterly

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