Public Finance and Public Choice

From CESifo Seminar Series

Public Finance and Public Choice

Two Contrasting Visions of the State

By James M. Buchanan and Richard A. Musgrave





In this volume, based on a week-long symposium at the University of Munich's Center for Economic Studies, two leading scholars of governmental economics debate their divergent perspectives on the role of government and its fiscal functions. James M. Buchanan, who was influential in developing the research program in public choice, concentrates on the imperfections of the political process and stresses the need for rules to restrain governmental interference. Richard A. Musgrave, a founder of modern public finance, points to market failures and inequities that call for corrective public policies. They apply their differing economic and political philosophies to a variety of key issues. Each presentation is followed by a response and general discussion.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262024624 282 pp. | 5.7 in x 8 in


  • This book is a rarity: a leisured debate between two great scholars with profoundly different ethical views. Anyone with a career ahead in twenty-first century economics will want to savor in depth the civil but adversarial dialogue between James M. Buchanan and Richard A. Musgrave. Intelligent non-specialists also have a treat waiting for them.

    Paul A. Samuelson

    Department of Economics, MIT

  • Public Finance and Public Choice is a facinating dialogue between two wise men of public economics—one a Nobel Prize winner and the other a should-be winner. Buchanan and Musgrave have each devoted a lifetime to thinking about the role of the state, but disagree profoundly about the potential and dangers of the shared enterprise that is government. This book will delight the specialists, inspire the neophyte, and inform them both because its essay-and-response structure permits a deap treatment of the philosophy of government as well as the raging policy issues of the day such as fiscal federalism, the flat tax, and tax compensation. Public Finance and Public Choice is sure to be a classic, and deserves to be read and read again.

    Joel Slemrod

    Paul W. McCracjen Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy; Director, Office of Tax Policy Research, University of Michigan

  • James M. Buchanan and Richard A. Musgrave are the pioneers of public finance in the United States. This book provides a unique opportunity to hear them talk to each other about their contrasting approaches to the discipline.

    Martin Feldstein

    Professor of Economics at Harvard University, and President of the National Bureau of Economic Research

  • Two towering pillars of 20th century public economics examine the deep foundations of their own thought and their common subject. Who could resist the chance to eavesdrop on their reflections? Certainly not anyonewho cares about the role of government in modern society.

    Robert M. Solow

    Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT