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Rethinking democracy in economics. The importance of political economy founders legacy

Alain Marciano

Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, 2004, issue 47, 69-93

Abstract: How do economists defme democracy? Such is the question this paper tries to deal with. We contrast two economists' views on democracy. First, we show how, within the framework of public choice theory, the use of the tools and methodology of mainstream economic analysis, the focus put upon rational choices impose a purely positivist and technical view on democracy. No room can be made to discussion and deliberation. Public choice theory evacuates deliberation from democracy. However, this should not lead to the conclusion that economists are not able to develop a consistent and useful approach of democratic institutions. It is possible to envisage an alternative economic approach to democracy based on the theory of human nature proposed by the founders of political economy, Hume and Smith. From their perspective, the limited rationality of human beings and their benevolence, the role of sympathy makes room for a theory of democracy different, richer and more subtle than that envisaged by the public choice theory.

JEL-codes: B12 B29 B49 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2004
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