Teaching economics, defending the free market and justifying government intervention: The ABCs of Buchanan’s political economy

Originally published in The Review of Austrian Economics

The purpose of this article is to show that Prices, Income and Public Policy (1954), an introductory textbook in economics written by William Allen, James Buchanan and Marshall Colberg, was actually a treatise in political economy. The book indeed tapped to the political economy of Henry Simons and Frank Knight, and anticipated Virginia Political Economy. This form of political economy has three dimensions that we discuss in this article. First, teaching principle of economics. Second, defending the virtues of a free-market economy. Thirdly, insisting on the importance of government intervention in such a system. Their point Allen, Buchanan and Colberg made was that a free market is flawed, just as government intervention. By contrast with those who were suggesting to invent a new form of capitalism to deal with the evils of capitalism, they claimed that one should try to make this system work by understanding its nature.

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