La doma del leviatán

STANFORD – Una sociedad exitosa necesita que el gobierno sea eficaz, asequible y que realice bien sus funciones, incluida la obtención de suficientes ingresos para financiarlas. Pero un gobierno excesivamente grande, centralizado, burocrático y caro reduce sustancialmente la economía privada al erosionar la iniciativa y la responsabilidad individual; desplazar a la inversión privada, el consumo y la caridad; y dañar los incentivos con elevadas tasas impositivas. También corre el riesgo de desplazar por otras a funciones gubernamentales necesarias, como la defensa. Así es, en pocas palabras, la Europa actual; y Estados Unidos la sigue de cerca.

El reciente fallecimiento de James M. Buchanan, padre de la economía de la elección pública, es motivo para reflexionar sobre sus sabias advertencias. Buchanan recibió el Premio Nobel en 1986 por incorporar al estudio del gobierno y del comportamiento de los funcionarios gubernamentales el mismo riguroso análisis que los economistas habían aplicado durante mucho tiempo a la toma de decisiones económicas privadas. Buchanan llegó a la conclusión de que los intentos de los políticos por satisfacer sus propios intereses inevitablemente derivan en resultados insatisfactorios.

El análisis de Buchanan no solo contrastó marcadamente con la máxima de Adam Smith según la cual la satisfacción del interés propio conduce, como «una mano invisible», a resultados sociales deseables, sino también con el enfoque prevalente del análisis de políticas, que ve al gobierno como un planificador benévolo que implementa «soluciones» de manual ante las fallas del mercado.

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