But this image of man as active chooser also requires that individuals willingly embrace the challenge of constructing their life and accept the responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. Liberty and responsibility are concepts at the core of Buchanan's reflections on the human predictament and thus in the proper domain of economic and political analysis. The political economist inspired by Buchanan's argument would whole heartedly agree because they find it unobjectionable that individuals want to be free to make their own choices. Autonomy is valued and cherished by individuals across the political spectrum even if they don't recognize the full impact of the concept in their political and economic philosophy.James Buchanan is certainly one of my economist heroes.
But Buchanan has more recently argued that we may be losing this sense of ourselves in the modern age. Autonomy is losing its appeal. The learned helplessness we have acquired by living in a political culture of preferential treatment and protection from ourselves may have left the modern mind incable of accepting the responsibilities of freedom. We are instead afraid to be free. This shift in our human imagination is perhaps the most dangerous threat to economic and political freedom we have faced yet.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Peter Boettke offers a nice tribute to James Buchanan that is well worth your time: