James Buchanan was one of the most philosophical economists of his generation, and he had a deep commitment to the classical liberal world-view. But he also identified serious challenges that classical liberals had to grapple with — challenges of justice, challenges of freedom and responsibility, and challenges of vision.
In this working paper, written for a collection of papers honoring Buchanan, I try to grapple with Buchanan’s challenges. It would be great to hear from BHL readers what they thought of Buchanan’s challenges and whether they might classify him as a forerunner of BHL.
Here’s the abstract:
In “The Soul of Classical Liberalism” (2000), James Buchanan argues that modern advocates of the liberal order must move beyond the mid-20th century project of “saving the books” and “saving the ideas” and instead embrace the challenge of “saving the soul” of liberalism. The prospects for establishing a genuine liberal order turn on capturing the intellectual imagination of a significant segment of the population. This paper examines the themes Buchanan raises in three essays that focus our attention on these critical issues; they are “Buchanan, The Potential and the Limits of Socially Organised Humankind” (1991); “The Soul of Classical Liberalism” (2000); and “Afraid to Be Free” (2005).