Diagnosing the Electorate

James Buchanan in the Role of Political Economist

Reading James Buchanan’s 2005 essay “ Afraid to be free: Dependency as desideratum” is profoundly depressing. Buchanan envisions a rather gloomy future, where despite the intellectual bankruptcy of socialism there will be a steady expansion of the sphere in which state control is exercised over individual choice. The incoherence between the political norms of classical liberal political systems and the fiscal burdens of the welfare state will increase to a breaking point where one or the other must be repudiated. To the extent this involves restricting the generality of welfare entitlements, these programs will be increasingly be seen as dispensations to particular factions, and contestation over the capacity for redistribution will increasingly dominate political life.

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