The Center for Study of Public Choice
Economics Department

David Levy


David Levy's peaceful transition from working on Escape for Democracy to working on a documentary history of the Virginia School was interrupted by the remarkable attack, both personal and positional, on James Buchanan, friend and mentor, in Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains. This attack is embedded in what has become a very widely held view of neoliberalism in which it is acceptable to impose the economic theory of markets on people regardless of their consent. There are thinkers who do believe in such a doctrine. Thus, Thomas Carlyle in his 1849 "Occasional discourse on the Negro Question" inferred from the fact that the former Jamaican slaves refused to engage in an efficient means of producing spices, they ought to be re-enslaved. The immediate response from John Stuart, exactly what one would expect from a real liberal is that the issue is happiness and consent, not spice production.

As Mill said earlier in an entirely austere context, society can divide our resources as we wish, but the consequences will follow whether we wish them or not. When economists stopped doing history of economics, we left our past to the kindness of the enemies of economics. It took a long time to give context for the "dismal science" - the first appearance is in "Negro question" - no doubt it will take a long time to give context for "neoliberalism." Where we will start is with the 1963 secret report that led to the destruction of the Virginia School at the University of Virginia labeled the group "neoliberal."

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