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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates the relationship between public choice and libertarianism. Public choice is a positive enterprise, the application of methodological individualism to the study of political processes and institutions. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that stresses individual liberty from the arbitrary power of the state. This chapter argues that public choice has had a substantial influence in the development of libertarian thought in the second half of the twentieth century. First, public choice theory reaches several conclusions that are consistent with libertarian assumptions about politics. Second, some public choice theorists have also directly contributed to the development of libertarianism in their politico-philosophical writings. In particular, this chapter focuses on the work of James Buchanan, one of the founders of the discipline and a major contributor to the philosophical debates in the 1970s about the proper role of the state in a free society. Finally, the chapter argues that some of the major criticisms of public choice, by both professional economists and libertarian purists, fail to understand the distinction between positive and normative in the writing of public choice theorists.

Keywords: public choice, libertarianism, liberalism, economics and philosophy, constitutional political economy, James M. Buchanan, Murray Rothbard

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