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Towards an Economics of Natural Equals
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Book description

The Virginia School's economics of natural equals makes consent critical for policy. Democracy is understood as government by discussion, not majority rule. The claim of efficiency unsupported by consent, as common in orthodox economics, appeals to social hierarchy. Politics becomes an act of exchange among equals where the economist is only entitled to offer advice to citizens, not to dictators. The foundation of natural equality and consent explains the common themes of James Buchanan and John Rawls as well as Ronald Coase and the Fabian socialists. What orthodox economics treats as efficient racial discrimination violates the fair chance entitlement to which people consent in a market economy. The importance of replication stressed by Gordon Tullock, developing themes from Karl Popper, is another expression of natural equality since the foresight of replication induces care into research. The publication of previously unpublished correspondence and documentation allows the reader to judge recent controversy.


‘This wonderfully documented study of the Virginia School of economics provides important insights into an economics that might have been, and should be.'

Dave Colander - Middlebury College, Vermont

‘Historians of Economic Thought extraordinaire David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart provide an essential contribution in understanding the intellectual history of public choice theory and constitutional economics. In addition to providing a compendium of original sources that trace the dynamics of the Virginia School, Levy and Peart provide a sympathetic but not uncritical account of the evolution of thinking of leading members of the school.'

Steven Durlauf - Steans Professor, University of Chicago

‘Levy and Peart provide a fascinating exposition of the importance to economics of the idea of the innate equality of individuals, with implications that range from promoting racial equality to questioning the right of economists to be all-knowing and all-powerful policy advisers. This book could hardly be more timely in our current political and intellectual crisis.'

William Easterly - New York University

‘Precursors and initiators of public choice engaged in debate with propagators of mainstream views. Through documentation of the writings and correspondence of the leading figures, this book provides a splendid statement of how ideas of public choice were developed and what the arguments of opponents were, and might still be.'

Arye L. Hillman - Bar-Ilan University, Israel

‘Read Levy and Peart's documentary history of the Virginia School of Buchanan-Coase-Tullock, and appreciate the perils of academic innovation in economics.'

Vernon L. Smith - Chapman University and 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics

‘The subtlety in this work combined with their mastery of the historical context of the exchanges is beyond compare.’

Peter Boettke Source: Coordination Problem (

‘… Peart and Levy’s is an insightful work, where the history of ideas and institutions, in the postwar American economists and social scientists’ communities, are explored in detail.’

Gianluca Damiani Source: History of Economic Ideas

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