Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2.1.: Leviathan as Actuality and as Contingency - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution)
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2.1.: Leviathan as Actuality and as Contingency - James M. Buchanan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution) 
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution, Foreword by Geoffrey Brennan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Foreword and coauthor note © 2000 Liberty Fund, Inc. © 1980 Cambridge University Press.
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Leviathan as Actuality and as Contingency
Because the model of political process is unconventional, especially in the English-language tradition,1 it may be useful to try to justify our underlying perceptions before presenting the basic analytics. In so doing, we emphasize the distinction to be made between a justification of theory as a description of reality on the one hand and as an analytic device to be employed in providing foundations for constitutional construction on the other. From theory in the first sense, refutable implications may be derived that will, when tested, add to our positive understanding. And we do not, by any means, wish to reject the explanatory potential of the state-as-monopoly model. In the second sense, however, theory only allows implications to be drawn concerning what might occur rather than what will be predicted to occur. For example, it may be difficult empirically to test the hypothesis that a flood will occur in a particular locality with a 0.01 probability each year. Nonetheless, the theory from which such a predictive hypothesis is derived may be used as the normative basis for taking action toward avoiding disastrous flood damage.
Another example much more familiar to economists may be suggested here, even if its many complexities must be acknowledged. Consider Homo economicus—the selfish brute who devotes himself single-mindedly to maximizing the present value of his measurable wealth. As a psychologically descriptive hypothesis of the way that individuals do in fact behave, this model of man may be unacceptable. Any theory that depends for its predictions on the hypothesis that all persons behave in such fashion at all times and in all circumstances must, of course, be rejected out of hand from ordinary introspection. It is difficult to deny, however, that this simplistic model of pure economic man has been shown to have powerful explanatory potential.
More important for our purposes, even if the model of pure economic man should be severely limited in its positive explanatory usage, it may prove to be, and has proven to be, very helpful in the comparative analyses of alternative social orders and arrangements. As Sir Dennis Robertson observed, we need not deny the existence of “love” to believe that love is indeed something precious and worthy of preserving and hence something to be economized upon. As he suggested, the task of the economist is to point out institutional ways and means of economizing on love.2 Or if we prefer to return to Adam Smith’s illustration, we may acknowledge that our butcher and our baker are occasionally, and perhaps frequently, benevolent, but surely we should all feel more secure if the institutional structure is so organized as to make their self-interest coincident with our own rather than the opposite.
In this way, what may appear to be a highly cynical or skeptical model of politics may be justified in much the same way that classical and neoclassical economic theory justifies its economic-man hypothesis, particularly in the context of comparative institutional evaluation. The monopoly-state model of government may be acknowledged to be useful, not necessarily because it predicts how governments always, or even frequently, work, but because there are inherent tendencies in the structure of government to push it toward that sort of behavior implied in the monopolistic model, tendencies that may emerge in settings where constraints are wholly absent. That is, natural government is monopoly government, with all the implications that the word “monopoly” suggests.
[1. ] The monopoly-state models developed by several Italian public-finance theorists have some common features with our construction. These models were presented alternatives to the democratic-state models by both de Viti de Marco and Fasiani. For a general discussion of the Italian contributions, with appropriate citations of the relevant Italian works, see James M. Buchanan, “La scienza delle finanze: The Italian Tradition in Fiscal Theory,” in Fiscal Theory and Political Economy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), pp. 24-74.
[2. ] Dennis H. Robertson, Economic Commentaries (London: Staples Press, 1956), pp. 148-49, 154.