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I credit Buchanan as one of the authors that significantly changed my pattern of thought. I often want to suggest his writings for others but find that they'll be too technical for most of my non-economics minded friends. Can you suggest any shorter pieces by Buchanan that encapsulate some of his themes but were written for a broad audience?

...Of course, I could just be underestimating my friends.

On the failure of economists to convince the public that free markets would deliver the goods, I have sugested that this is the "third wave" that Marxism surfed to success. http://conjecturesandrefutations.net/weblog/?p=189

The other two waves were the respect for science in progressive circles and the moral imperative to help the poor and the weak.


Prof. Buchanan mainly wrote for his fellow academics, but some of his statements about the liberal project are assessible to wider audiences. I like his The Soul of Classical Liberalism, which was published in the Independent Review, and I also really like this essay "The Potential and Limits of Socially Organized Humankind" which I think you can track down in his collected works at Liberty Fund.

Of course, if your friends have ethical theory, political theory, legal theory, methodology of the social sciences, then Buchanan has several works that are relevant and not just pure economics. Outside of Hayek, Buchanan has done more for establishing an interdisciplinary research program in economics and political economy in the 20th and 21st century. It is a great privilege to have studied with him and to have learned from him and as Fred says it is amazing to see just how intellectually vibrant he remains. And to be honest, that recent article of his "Afraid to be Free" is actually one of the most insightful pieces you could share with your friends.


To add to Pete's comment. Buchanan mentioned that in the early 1970s he wanted to write a book on classical liberalism for the general public. He didn't do it, as he couldn't find the inspiration. But what he ended up writing was "The Limits of Liberty" which is made for a general informed audience. You may want to check it out for you and your friends.

Ed Stringham presented his new edited book, "Anarchy, State, and Public Choice" at today's Austrian Scholar's Conference. He introduced the work as a response to the Public Choice anarchist literature of the 60s and 70s which all seemed to share Buchanan's pessimistic outlook for the potential for anarchy, the critical pieces of which are reprinted in the publication.

Also included in the work is Buchanan's response upon reading the initial manuscript. Stringham’s presentation of Buchanan's response was in itself rather pessimistic. I think instead that Buchanan's brief comments in the text and at last week’s seminar are a resounding victory for the thesis of Stringham's volume and in particular Boettke's conception of Anarchism as a progressive research agenda.

In both his written and spoken remarks concerning the anarchist literature of the 60s and 70s, Buchanan contextualizes his pessimism as a response to the chaotic atmosphere of the academic institutions of the time. In seminar he recollected a department bombing during his brief stay at UCLA. It seemed hard to be optimistic in such conditions. But looking back now Buchanan, alludes to his stance of being pleasantly surprised, or as Fred noted above his backward looking optimism. Since Stringham's goal as he presented it was to meet this pessimism head on, Buchanan's response is a claim to victory for the young anarchists, that Buchanan has since updated such pessimism, and in turn takes up the Boettke/Stringham thesis of pushing forward the anarchist theoretical frontier to answer the problems that terrorism seems to inflict upon our modern economy. Though not nor I doubt ever a self-proclaimed anarchist, Buchanan claims the desperate need for a “hard-headed analysis of what terrorism might produce and how it might be fought by persons in a society that respects personal liberties.”

Perhaps Buchanan's work needs to appear in condensed form, like Readers Digest did for Hayek's "Serfdom", or in condensed form with commentary as I am doing for some of Popper's books. "Conjectures and Refutations" which started in August last year and ran into October.

"The Open Society" volume 1 ran through October and November. http://conjecturesandrefutations.net/weblog/?p=105

Volume 2 started in February and is almost done.

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