Wednesday, January 9, 2013

RIP: James Buchanan, 1919-2013

Over at Marginal Revolution (here), Tyler Cowen is reporting that Nobel laureate James Buchanan has passed away at age 93. Buchanan was, along with Gordon Tullock, Anthony Downs, Mancur Olson, William Niskanen, and Vincent Ostrom, a founder of the Public Choice School of Political-Economy and the Public Choice Society. I never met the man, but I certainly appreciated the import of his work.

While the Public Choice approach sometimes seems to explain nothing by purporting to explain everything (except why individuals vote, which strikes public choice theorists as irrational), no one today can purport to do good positive political analysis without at least a measure of public choice theory, with its skeptical (sometimes cynical) attitude toward "political markets."

That said, I've always found Buchanan's ideologically-based presumptions in favor of polluters and against environmental protection to be deplorable. He basically believed that anyone who favored social-welfare enhancing environmental protection measures was a communist/tyrant in disguise, intent on trampling the property rights of others (presuming, for no reason, that property rights were clearly defined in the first instance). In this respect, Buchanan was among the ideological progenitors of the  largely discredited theory of "free-market environmentalism."

I have published critiques of both Buchanan's presumptions about property rights (here) and "free-market environmentalism" (in Chapter 5 of my Pollution and Property book, see here).

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.