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Foreword - Geoffrey Brennan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy) 
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy) Foreword by Robert D. Tollison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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Foreword and coauthor note © 2000 Liberty Fund, Inc. © 1985 by Cambridge University Press.
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The Reason of Rules, by Geoffrey Brennan and James M. Buchanan, is a book-length attempt to focus the energies of economists and other social analysts on the nature and function of the rules under which ordinary political life and market life function.1 The argument is that modern economics seems mired in either explaining the obvious or overmathematizing the trivial. The message of this book is that such efforts are misguided and that analysts’ time would be much better spent on the problem of how rules can be devised and improved upon so that the ordinary life of an economy can proceed with a minimum of social dilemma ingredients. In other words, there is more than one way to get out of the jungle; can we develop any positive and normative theories of what the “best” way might be?
Harkening back to classical economics, Brennan and Buchanan stress that this consideration of rules is not really a new problem for economic analysis, and they point out that applying the analytical rigor of modern economics to rules and their selection is not an entirely new intellectual enterprise. The foundation stones have barely, if at all, been laid in this work, and this book is as good a source as any in all of Buchanan’s work for capturing the essence of his vision of constitutional political economy.
There are, of course, other sources of this approach contained in various papers and books in this collection of Buchanan’s works. The basic idea of the importance of rules dates to at least The Calculus of Consent and threads its way through Buchanan’s work to this very day.2 More than anything else, Buchanan’s basic insight that rules are important can be said to have driven most of his written work over his career. More than any other single scholar, he is responsible for this emphasis and its emergence in modern economics and political science.
The Reason of Rules reflects an attempt to erect some methodological and analytical substance around this basic idea of rules. Perhaps it reflects a turning point in economics in that this book foreshadows the work of future constitutional theorists. It is hard to be sure about this because the problem that Buchanan assigns himself is so hard. However, the inherent difficulty of the problem reflects the stature of Buchanan the man and scholar. Better to build a base camp so that others can ultimately scale the highest mountain than to climb a nearby hill.
Robert D. Tollison
As we noted in the preface, The Reason of Rules is a response to critics of The Power to Tax, also jointly authored with Geoffrey Brennan. In an analytical sense, Brennan and I were essentially clones of each other in the whole enterprise. We shared the same reactions to the criticisms of those who seemed simply to misunderstand our whole purpose in the earlier book.
We had planned to write a third book, which we were to call The Power to Transfer. This book has not been, and will not be, written. The basic analysis proved to be much more difficult than we had anticipated, and, also, Geoffrey Brennan returned to Australian National University in 1983.
Geoffrey Brennan probably knows how I think better than any other coauthor. For me, it is good that he serves as coeditor of the Collected Works.
James M. Buchanan
[1. ]Geoffrey Brennan and James M. Buchanan, The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), volume 10 in the series.
[2. ]James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962), volume 3 in the series.