November 12, 2013

What Should Classical Liberal Political Economists Do?

  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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In 1964 James Buchanan famously asked “What Should Economists Do?” He argued that economists should focus their intellectual attention on exchange and the institutions within which exchange takes place. This paper reflects on Buchanan’s message and looks at the development of that argument, and its implications in the wake of post-socialist political economy on the one hand, and the post-financial crisis of 2008 on the other. Following Buchanan, the paper argues that classical liberal political economists must embrace the intellectual and practical challenges of the day, and bring a robust theory of political economy to bear on questions of justice, questions of freedom and responsibility, and questions concerning the invisible hand and the appropriate institutional framework which results in peaceful social cooperation and productive specialization in a society of free and responsible individuals.