Commenter liberty makes a counter-argument with important points that I agree completely with about the difference between planning rules of the game and planning decisions on a day-to-day basis (the constitutional phase vs. the policy phase).
I am concerned that she put this as a counter-argument, because this was actually the distinction I was trying to get across in my update. This is James Buchanan's crucial point and this is exactly my point. It's plauisble to change the rules of the game, but that is largely not what is being proposed (if it were I wouldn't have nearly as much issue with it).
So I posed it this way to liberty, and I thought I'd share it as its own post:
"Can you name me an economics
department in this country whose "thinkers in studies" (on the basis of
an academic literature) advocate a more radical break - not just with
the existing rules of the game (that would be plausible) - but with
actual existing policy decisions - than George Mason University's
I can think of perhaps one, and it's located a ways south of GMU."
Most other departments have economists who see the value in a constitutional order that presumes liberty, decentralizes power, separate powers, limits powers, and enshrines democracy and the rule of law. These other departments don't always like policy that is made but they see the body of policy that is produced by this good set of constitutional rules as being generally good (because we have good rules). To the extent that they critique policy, it's usually in the form of pointing out flaws and tweaking. You rarely see economics departments with big plans to change the order that has evolved under the constituional constraints we have in place according to a different blueprint that they dreamed up in their studies.
George Mason University and Auburn University are more unique on this point. They are very different. You have a lot of professors in these departments that have a lot of really big ideas not just about changing the constitutional rules of the game, but about how they could come up with better policy decisions based on certain common libertarian formulas.
This is why I spend so much time on the ides of people in these departments, because I am of the opinion that the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. Despite protests to the contrary, there are an awful lot of designs coming out of GMU and Auburn.
If it were all constitutional assertions or all tweaks of an evolved order, I might feel differently (and yes, the cut-off on the latter is a little subjective I know - but isn't everything in economics?). But that's generally not what you get.