22 fevereiro 2013

James Buchanan

Mr Buchanan was an outlier in his field. He eschewed the profession’s embrace of complex models and maths in favour of serious reflection on political philosophy (leading some to dismiss him, wrongly, as a lightweight). A Tennessean by birth, he mistrusted north-eastern elites and spent most of his career at universities in Virginia. He challenged his profession’s casual treatment of variables such as economic cost, which he considered to be a deeply subjective matter. He adopted heterodoxies such as a 100% inheritance tax, on egalitarian grounds. Yet his greatest contribution was in the realm of political economy.

His interest in the workings of the state reflected its growing importance. From having only a minimal role in pre-industrial days, Leviathan came to control swathes of economic activity as the 20th century progressed. National-security demands were partly responsible. Government responses to market failures, from unscrupulous business practices to the trauma of the Depression, also played their part. As demands on the state grew, so too did the need to understand its behaviour.
Mr Buchanan was one of a small group of economists wondering whether the state was up to the task. Untrammelled markets may fail—by producing more pollution than society as a whole would prefer, for example. That creates the potential for welfare-improving government intervention, such as a tax on pollution. Yet there is no guarantee a state will get it right. Whether interventions are justified, Buchanan pointed out, depends on whether government officials are motivated by self-interest as well as a sense of public duty. Weighing up the pros and cons of policy choices requires an unsentimental view of government actions, a position he called “politics without romance”. In exploring this he helped create public-choice theory.
Public-choice economics assumes that government figures are merely human. They should be expected to look out for themselves rather than to act as saintly public stewards. It is a cynical (and, some might say, obvious) approach but a useful one. John Maynard Keynes may have been spot-on in concluding that big government deficits could boost a sagging economy. But Mr Buchanan reckoned such arguments led to a slow erosion of the “old-time fiscal religion” that taxes should be raised to meet government obligations. This made spending less politically costly, because politicians no longer felt under pressure to pair new spending with higher taxes. That, he rightly predicted, would lead to an era of persistent, big fiscal deficits and growing debt.
Public-choice analysis quickly provided the lens through which government action is now viewed. Legislators may “logroll”, for instance, striking deals with colleagues to pass measures that benefit small groups but are of dubious value to the general public. Governments are racked by “rent-seeking”, whereby firms aim to capture financial returns through special government privileges or monopoly rights. A construction company may spend its time lobbying for government contracts rather than courting private business, for example. That absorbs not only the resources of the firm eventually granted the privilege but also those of other firms competing for the same entitlement. As opportunities for rent-seeking expand, they siphon off resources from productive activities in the private sector and towards competition for government largesse. Public-choice theory counsels caution and care in expanding the role of the state.
Fonte: aqui

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário