Front Page Titles (by Subject) VII.: Summary - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy)
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VII.: Summary - 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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Homo economicus, the rational, self-oriented maximizer of contemporary economic theory, is, we believe, the appropriate model of human behavior for use in evaluating the workings of different institutional orders. The central feature of the Homo economicus model in this connection is its presumption of the ubiquity of conflict among interacting agents; it is this presumption that underlies the skepticism toward the possession of power that characterizes our attitude (and that of classical political economists) toward the design of institutions. Such skepticism means that it cannot be presumed that discretionary power possessed by agents under a particular institutional regime will be exercised in others’ interests, unless there are constraints embedded in the institutional structure which ensure that effect. In this sense, our model lies a great distance from the predominant “benevolent despot” model of politics in which public-interest orientations are assumed simply as a matter of course.
In mounting our defense of the Homo economicus alternative, we have focused on analytic and methodological arguments rather than purely empirical ones. Our arguments are several:
There is, of course, empirical content in these arguments. However, in contrast with the purely predictive “science of behavior” models of conventional economics, empirical aspects are not entirely decisive. The significance of this fact is not that we believe that the purely empirical case for the use of Homo economicus is weak, although we believe that case to be rather weaker than some of our more zealous colleagues do. The significance is rather that the empirical record is singularly difficult to unravel, not least because observed behavioral patterns may be substantially influenced by the prevailing institutional structure, so that when that structure is altered there are entirely predictable but (necessarily) currently unobservable behavioral changes. Consequently, rather than attend to ultimately inadequate observations, we have attempted to develop our argument on the basis of reasoned speculation. Of necessity, such reasoned speculation makes up a large part of constitutional analysis. And as for our political-economist forebears, so for us: The Homo economicus-derived model of social conflict and cooperation seems uniquely appropriate for our constitutional speculations.
Time, Temptation, and the Constrained Future*
[* ][Geoffrey Brennan and James M. Buchanan, The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of Fiscal Constitution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), volume 9 in the series.]