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Towards an Economics of Natural Equals

Towards an Economics of Natural Equals
A Documentary History of the Early Virginia School

  • Publication planned for: March 2020
  • availability: Not yet published - available from March 2020
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108428972

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  • The Virginia School's economics of natural equals makes consent critical for policy. Democracy is understood as government by discussion, not majority rule. The claim of efficiency unsupported by consent, as common in orthodox economics, appeals to social hierarchy. Politics becomes an act of exchange among equals where the economist is only entitled to offer advice to citizens, not to dictators. The foundation of natural equality and consent explains the common themes of James Buchanan and John Rawls as well as Ronald Coase and the Fabian socialists. What orthodox economics treats as efficient racial discrimination violates the fair chance entitlement to which people consent in a market economy. The importance of replication stressed by Gordon Tullock, developing themes from Karl Popper, is another expression of natural equality since the foresight of replication induces care into research. The publication of previously unpublished correspondence and documentation allows the reader to judge recent controversy.

    • Explores the Virginal School of Political Economy, which has been largely marginalized in the existing scholarship on public choice theory
    • Separates the Virginia School from mainstream economics and from the Chicago School, with which it is often identified
    • Examines previously unpublished texts and archival finds that help to illuminate crucial moments in the history of the Virginia School
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This wonderfully documented study of the Virginia School of economics provides important insights into an economics that might have been, and should be.' Dave Colander, Middlebury College, Vermont

    'Historians of Economic Thought extraordinaire David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart provide an essential contribution in understanding the intellectual history of public choice theory and constitutional economics. In addition to providing a compendium of original sources that trace the dynamics of the Virginia School, Levy and Peart provide a sympathetic but not uncritical account of the evolution of thinking of leading members of the school.' Steven Durlauf, Steans Professor, University of Chicago

    'Levy and Peart provide a fascinating exposition of the importance to economics of the idea of the innate equality of individuals, with implications that range from promoting racial equality to questioning the right of economists to be all-knowing and all-powerful policy advisers. This book could hardly be more timely in our current political and intellectual crisis.' William Easterly, New York University

    'Precursors and initiators of public choice engaged in debate with propagators of mainstream views. Through documentation of the writings and correspondence of the leading figures, this book provides a splendid statement of how ideas of public choice were developed and what the arguments of opponents were, and might still be.' Arye L. Hillman, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

    'Read Levy and Peart's documentary history of the Virginia School of Buchanan-Coase-Tullock, and appreciate the perils of academic innovation in economics.' Vernon L. Smith, Chapman University and 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: March 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108428972
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • contains: 14 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: Not yet published - available from March 2020
  • Table of Contents

    1. Why the Virginia School of Political Economy matters
    2. James Buchanan and the return to an economics of natural equals
    3. 'Almost wholly negative': an early reaction to the Virginia School
    4. 'The economics of Universal Education' and after: from Friedman to Rawls
    5. Virginia political economy and public choice economics
    6. The individuals and their connections
    7. The role of the Earhart Foundation in the Early Virginia School
    8. The early Virginia School and the anti-democratic right
    9. Neoliberalism, the Virginia School, and the Geldard Report
    10. Conclusion: should the Virginia School be restored?

  • Authors

    David M. Levy, George Mason University, Virginia
    David M. Levy is Professor of Economics at the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University, Virginia. He has published four scholarly books and over ninety journal articles. His most recent book with Sandra J. Peart, Escape from Democracy: The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy (Cambridge, 2016), applies analytical egalitarianism to expert economists.

    Sandra J. Peart, University of Richmond
    Sandra J. Peart is Dean and E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. She has written or edited nine books, including Escape from Democracy: The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy (Cambridge, 2016), with David M. Levy, and Hayek on Mill: The Mill-Taylor Friendship and Related Writings (2015).

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