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The anti-discriminatory tradition in Virginia school public choice theory

Phillip W. Magness ()
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Phillip W. Magness: American Institute for Economic Research

Public Choice, 2020, vol. 183, issue 3, No 12, 417-441

Abstract: Abstract This paper investigates the historical relationship between the emergence of public choice theory in the 1960s and the problem of racial discrimination. Drawing upon archival research, I argue that foundational public choice scholars brought together four distinct strains of anti-discriminatory theory to grapple with the challenges posed by segregationist public policy instruments during the Civil Rights era. They include (1) the treatment of racial discrimination as regulatory capture, which is typified in the work of Frank Knight and W. H. Hutt; (2) the treatment of discrimination as an efficiency problem, building upon the closely related Chicago school insights of Gary Becker and Milton Friedman; (3) the treatment of discrimination as a constitutional problem, as seen in extensions of the framework of James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock; and (4) historical analysis of discriminatory institutions, also as seen in the work of Tullock. Together, the four components provided the basis of a comprehensive economic critique of discrimination that has since been neglected in the literature on the history of economic thought, and that offers far-reaching insights into the academic literature on race and the continued problem of discriminatory institutions.

Keywords: Public choice; Race; Discrimination; University of Virginia; Apartheid (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B20 J15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11127-020-00794-6

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