December, 2012

Choice Versus Interaction in Public Choice

Discerning the Legacy of The Calculus of Consent
  • Richard Wagner

    Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
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This chapter explores the legacy of James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock as it pertains to the establishment of public choice as a field of scholarly inquiry. The Calculus of Consent is surely the urtext for capturing that legacy, yet that legacy can be discerned in two distinct directions. One direction is of a simple or equilibrated political economy as represented by median voter models. The other direction is of a complex or emergent political economy. The choice between these directions is similar to the choice between the Laspeyres and Paasche approaches to the construction of index numbers. This chapter argues for the superiority of the Paasche approach when applied to intellectual history and so locates the legacy of Buchanan and Tullock in terms of interactive or emergent political economy as against choice-theoretic political economy.