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The Calculus of Consent breaks with past theories of political science in its analysis of democratic decision-making processes. It approaches the basic problems of politics, using the technical tools developed in modern economics and game theory.
Buchanan and Tullock discuss political institutions in the same manner as the economist discusses the market. They begin with the individual as he participates in the processes through which group choices are organized. Government is treated as a co-operative endeavor on the part of a number of people of differing tastes to increase their abilities to reach their separate objectives. As in economics, the basic question becomes one of efficiency—which set of governmental institutions will best serve the individual ends of the citizens.
The authors show that many of the apparent inefficiencies of governmental process are predictable results of positive analysis. Their methodology, concepts, and analytics are based on an intellectual movement which goes back to the work of Arthur Bentley and Pareto. A striking feature of the book is a series of figures designed to support the authors' arguments on a mathematical level.
Of great originality and significance, The Calculus of Consent is an important theoretical document. It represents a major step towards formulating a scientific theory of democracy.