The Political Theory of Conservative Economists

Conrad P. Waligorski

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.

“Deftly blends theoretical and practical concerns while elaborating, synthesizing, and criticizing the principles that inspire contemporary partisans of laissez-faire.

—Review of Politics

“There can be no doubt that this is a very good book, comprehensive in its thematic coverage and incisive in its critique.


"Even those who resist the book’s conclusions will find this an intelligent analysis of the connection between how we think about political economy and the way that thinking governs our political aspirations."—

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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.

About the Author

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.