The Calculus of Consent, the second volume of Liberty Fund’s The Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, is a reprint edition of the ground-breaking economic classic written by two of the world’s preeminent economists—Gordon Tullock and Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan. This book is a unique blend of economics and political science that helped create significant new subfields in each discipline respectively, namely, the public choice school and constitutional political economy. Charles K. Rowley, Duncan Black Professor of Economics at George Mason University, points out in his introduction, “The Calculus of Consent is, by a wide margin, the most widely cited publication of each coauthor and, by general agreement, their most important scientific contribution.”
The Calculus of Consent was co-authored by Buchanan with Gordon Tullock, with whom Buchanan collaborated on many books and academic enterprises throughout their careers. As Robert D. Tollison states in the foreword, “[this book] is a radical departure from the way democracies conduct their business. The Calculus is already a book for the ages.”
Constitutional political economy is the theme of the papers collected in this volume. This entire area of contemporary economic thought is a legacy of James M. Buchanan.
This monumental twenty-volume series presents the writings of James M. Buchanan, one of the great twentieth-century scholars of liberty. Buchanan, the Nobel laureate in Economics in 1986, has much wisdom to offer—not just to academics and economists—but to all who seek to understand the challenges and opportunities of governance in our age.
In 1986, James M. Buchanan was awarded the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Universally respected as one of the founders of the “public choice” school of economics, he is the author of numerous books and hundreds of articles in the areas of public finance, public choice, constitutional economics, and economic philosophy. He is best known for such works as The Calculus of Consent, The Limits of Liberty, The Power to Tax, and The Reason of Rules. Buchanan has devoted himself to the study of the contractual and constitutional basis for the theory of economic and political decision making. In part one of this conversation, Buchanan discusses the theory of public choice, his exchange theory of economics, and constitutional thought. In part two, the conversation turns to such topics as the work ethic, the logic of free markets, subjectivism, anarchy, federalism, the Nobel Prize in Economics, and Buchanan’s personal experiences and philosophy.
While relatively short, Cost and Choice, according to Hartmut Kliemt in the foreword, “holds quite a central place in Buchanan’s work. For the fundamental economic notion of ‘cost’, or ‘opportunity cost’, is intimately related to the individualist and subjectivist perspective that is so essential to the Buchanan enterprise.”
While this volume presents the important writings of James M. Buchanan on taxation and debt, Geoffrey Brennan makes it clear in the foreword that the thrust of Buchanan’s work in this area has been to integrate theories of taxation and debt with public-expenditure theory. Therefore, the editors strongly urge that the present volume on taxation and debt be read in tandem with the subsequent Volume 15, Externalities and Public Expenditure Theory.
Democracy in Deficit is one of the early comprehensive attempts to apply the basic principles of public-choice analysis to macroeconomic theory and policy.
Economic Inquiry and Its Logic presents a collection of Buchanan’s most representative works in economic method and analysis. As Robert D. Tollison points out in his foreword, “[Included] in this volume are some of [Buchanan’s] most often cited works on methodology, including papers reflecting his emphasis on the subjective nature of opportunity costs and the implications of this subjectivity for economic analysis.”
In his foreword, Geoffrey Brennan states, “The papers in this volume represent a coherent set of pieces focused on aspects of public-expenditure theory and constitute all of Buchanan’s papers in this area.”
As diverse as the papers presented in this volume may seem at first glance, all of them touch on two characteristic themes of James Buchanan’s work: the respect for individual sovereignty and the threat of monopoly power on the rights of the individual.