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This article studies the few works James Buchanan wrote on education from the end of the 1950s to the early 1970s. These neglected works tell us important things about how Buchanan’s ideas on constitutions evolved through time, because they provided Buchanan with the opportunity to apply his ideas about constitutions and, in return, nurture his theoretical thinking. Two historical developments were of importance in the evolution of Buchanan’s thinking: the Southern reactions to the Supreme Court’s injunction to desegregate public schools in the late 1950s, and, in the late 1960s, university unrest. We argue that Buchanan moved from a rather optimistic conception that constitutions complement market mechanisms, and constitutional manipulation can be tolerated if market mechanisms were sufficiently important to nonetheless let individuals do what they want, to a really pessimistic view – a constitution is absolutely necessary to control and even coerce behaviors. Behind these claims stands Buchanan’s conception of what is a “good society” and of the role of the economist in its defense.

 

Fleury, Jean-Baptiste and Marciano, Alain, The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education (December 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2994683 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2994683