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It’s difficult to overstate the impact of conservative economics on American life. The conservative thought of economists like Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Friedrick Hayek has provided the conceptual framework that undergirds nearly every aspect of current U.S. social-economic policy. Although a great deal has been written about the economic theories of these Nobel Prize-winning economists, this study is the first to examine the political theory that underlies conservative economics and its implications for public policy. Long associated with the “Chicago” and “public choice” schools of thought, Friedman, Buchanan, Hayek, and others have consistently repudiated Keynesian principles. They have steadfastly opposed social welfare policies and regulation of private enterprise, championing instead the free market as a mechanism for ordering society. In this book Conrad Waligorski analyzes the political content of the conservative economists’ arguments. In so doing, he illuminates the political, economic, and philosophical ideas behind and justification for the laissez-faire policy—the reduced regulation, intervention, and welfare favored by conservative governments in the United States, Canada, and Britain. Description Conrad Waligorski is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Arkansas. His publications include John Kenneth Galbraith: The Economist as Political Theorist and Anglo-American Liberalism: Readings in Normative Political Economy. This Kansas Open Books title is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.



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University Press of Kansas


x, 260 pp.


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© 1990 by the University Press of Kansas. All rights reserved. Reissued in 2021. The text of this book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License.

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Open Access

The Political Theory of Conservative Economists