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This essay discusses the arguments in Buchanan’s 1964 paper, ‘What should economists do?’, in the light of recent developments in behavioural economics. Criticizing the preference-satisfaction criterion of neoclassical economics, Buchanan argues that the central concern of economics should be to design and maintain institutions that allow individuals as much opportunity as possible to make their own choices and to engage in voluntary cooperation. He worries that using preference rather than choice as the fundamental normative concept might license social planners (and economists who see themselves as their advisers) to set themselves up as the judges of what individuals ‘truly’ prefer. This is exactly what behavioural welfare economics is now doing by using the satisfaction of (supposed) latent preferences as its criterion. Following Buchanan, I propose an opportunity-based criterion and argue that the contractarian justification for this criterion is unaffected by behavioural findings.
|Title of host publication||James M. Buchanan|
|Subtitle of host publication||A Theorist of Political Economy and Social Philosophy|
|Editors||Richard E. Wagner|
|Number of pages||25|
|ISBN (Print)||978-3-030-03079-7, 978-3-030-40441-3|
|Publication status||Published - 25 Jun 2019|
|Name||Remaking Economics: Eminent Post-War Economists|
- James Buchanan
- behavioural economics
- 1 Finished
Sugden, R., Isoni, A. & Zheng, J.
1/01/16 → 30/06/21