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The Impartial Spectator Goes to Washington: Toward a Smithian Theory of Electoral Behavior

  • Geoffrey Brennan (a1) and Loren Lomasky (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 December 2008

When economists pay homage to the wisdom of the distant past (not the most common of professional exercises) it is more likely that a work two decades old is being admired than one two centuries old. Economics is a science, and the sciences are noteworthy for their digestion and assimilation of the work of previous generations. Contributions remain only as accretions to the accepted body of knowledge; the writings and the writers disappear almost without trace. A conspicuous exception to this rule of professional cannibalization is Adam Smith. Since 1776 he has not lacked for honors that have escaped even his most illustrious peers. Who, after all, wears a David Ricardo necktie? So to the author of The Wealth of Nations, all praise!

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Geoffrey Brennan and James Buchanan , “Voter choice: Evaluating Political Alternatives.” American Behavioral Scientist 28: 185201, 11/12 (1984).

John Ferejohn and Morris Fiorina , “The Paradox of Not-voting: A Decision Theoretic Analysis.” American Political Science Review 68:525536 (1974)

Robert Goodin and K.W.S. Roberts , “The Ethical Voter.” American Political Science Review 69:926929 (1975)

Paul E. Meehl , “The Selfish Voter Paradox and the Thrown Away Vote Argument.” American Political Science Review 71:1130 (1977)

William Riker and Peter Ordeshook , “A Theory of the Calculus of Voting.” American Political Science Review 62: 2542 (1968).

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Economics & Philosophy
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