What is the most basic unit of our society which our values and norms are built around? For James Buchanan, that unit is the individual. It was his view that individual liberty should be the fundamental building block of a society. Laws and systems should be built around the protection of those individual rights in an effort to preserve liberty.
His research and ideas won him a Nobel Prize in 1986, but underwent a transformation over the years. “I didn’t understand- had no understanding at all- of how the economy works or how the market works. I’ve often referred to myself during that period as a libertarian socialist. Now that may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I don’t think it really is. I always place a very high value on individual liberty, but I didn’t understand how the market operated and so I thought somebody had to make economic decisions for us, and it was probably made by an establishment in Wall Street; and therefore I thought it might be better if we had democratic decision-making for the economy. And once I came to understand how the economy worked I flipped over very quickly from being a libertarian socialist to being a strong advocate of the market, allow the market to work.”
What influenced these ideas, and how can they still be applied today? Listen to the latest episode of The Free To Choose Media Podcast to find out.