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December 1984

Can Policy Activism Succeed? A Public Choice Perspective

by James M. Buchanan

​The author discusses that the primary implication of public-choice theory is that institutional-constitutional change or reform is required to achieve ultimate success in macroeconomic policy. He notes that there is relatively little to be gained by advancing arguments for “better informed” and “more public-spirited” agents, to be instructed by increasingly sophisticated “economic consultants” who are abreast of the frontiers of the “new science.” All such effort will do little more than provide employment for those who are involved. It is the political economy of policy that must be reformed. Until and unless this step is taken, he notes, observed patterns of policy outcomes will continue to reflect accurately the existing political economy within which these outcomes are produced—and we shall continue to have conferences and discussions about the failures of “policy activism.”