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The Role of Homo Oeconomicus in the Political Economy of James Buchanan

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  • Kirchgässner, Gebhard

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Abstract

Whenever the economic model of behaviour is to be applied, the utility function has – at least somewhat – to be specified. Buchanan generally prefers to apply a rather narrow version. However, he acknowledges that it is hardly possible to explain actual behaviour of individuals with such a version, so in performing empirical economic research he accepts that we have to use a more open one. He also acknowledges that people might behave differently in markets than they do in politics; other-regarding behaviour might be more pronounced in politics as compared to markets. Which version should be applied in constitutional economics, however, is a different question. Following a long ongoing tradition in political philosophy, he insists that – for methodological reasons – the narrow version is the correct one to be applied; this is the way to compare different sets of rules when analysing the possible abuse of power by rulers in order to prevent it as far as possible. The same should also be taken into account when analysing the process of policy advice. The narrow Homo Oeconomicus model should, however, not be misunderstood as a normative prescription.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirchgässner, Gebhard, 2014. "The Role of Homo Oeconomicus in the Political Economy of James Buchanan," Economics Working Paper Series 1403, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2014:03
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    File URL: http://ux-tauri.unisg.ch/RePEc/usg/econwp/EWP-1403.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Herbert A. Simon, 1955. "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 99-118.
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    4. James Buchanan, 1990. "The domain of constitutional economics," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-18, December.
    5. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    6. Simon, Herbert A, 1978. "Rationality as Process and as Product of Thought," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 1-16, May.
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    10. Brennan, Geoffrey & Buchanan, James, 1981. "The normative purpose of economic "science": Rediscovery of an eighteenth century method," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 155-166, December.
    11. Shlomo Maital, 1986. "Prometheus Rebound: On Welfare-Improving Constraints," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 337-344, Jul-Sep.
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    14. Frey, Bruno S, 1997. "A Constitution for Knaves Crowds Out Civic Virtues," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1043-1053, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2015. "Behavioral political economy: A survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 395-417.
    2. Brian Kogelmann, 2015. "Modeling the individual for constitutional choice," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 455-474, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Homo Oeconomicus; Economic Model of Behaviour; Empirical Public Choice; Constitutional Economics; Self-Interest; Policy Advice;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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