James McGill Buchanan Jr. (/bjuːˈkænən/; October 3, 1919 – January 9, 2013) was an American economist known for his work on public choice theory (included in his most famous work, co-authored with Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent, 1962), for which he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986. Buchanan's work initiated research on how politicians' and bureaucrats' self-interest, utility maximization, and other non-wealth-maximizing considerations affect their decision-making. He was a member of the Board of Advisors of The Independent Institute, a member (and for a time president) of the Mont Pelerin Society, a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute, and professor at George Mason University.
James M. Buchanan
Buchanan in September 2010
James McGill Buchanan Jr.
October 3, 1919
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 9, 2013 (aged 93)|
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.
|Institution||George Mason University|
University of Virginia
|Field||Public choice theory|
|Virginia school of political economy|
|Alma mater||University of Chicago|
University of Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University
|Influences||John Stuart Mill|
Ludwig von Mises
|Contributions||Public choice theory|
|Awards||Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1986)|
|Information at IDEAS / RePEc|
Buchanan was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the eldest child of James and Lila (Scott) Buchanan, a family of Scotch-Irish descent. He was a grandson of John P. Buchanan, a governor of Tennessee in the 1890s. He attended Middle Tennessee State Teachers College (since 1965 known as Middle Tennessee State University) in 1940 by living at home and working on the farm. Buchanan completed his M.S. at the University of Tennessee in 1941. He served in the United States Navy on the staff of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in Honolulu during the war years, when he met Anne Bakke, whom he married on October 5, 1945. Anne, of Norwegian descent, was working as a nurse at the military base in Hawaii. She died in 2005.
Buchanan identified as a socialist in his youth and was unaware of the University of Chicago's strong market-oriented approach to economics. His studies there, particularly under Frank H. Knight, converted him to "a zealous advocate of the market order". Buchanan received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1948 with a thesis on "Fiscal Equity in a Federal State", which was heavily influenced by Knight. It was also at Chicago that he first read and found enlightening the work of Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. Photographs of Knight and Wicksell hung on his office walls ever after.
Buchanan was the founder of a new Virginia school of political economy.
He taught at UCLA 1968–1969, followed by Virginia Tech 1969–1983, where he held the title Distinguished Professor of Economics and founded the Center for the Study of Public Choice (CSPC). In 1983, a conflict with Economics Department head Daniel M. Orr came to a head, and Buchanan took the CSPC to its new home at George Mason University, where he eventually retired with emeritus status.
He also taught at Florida State University (1951-1956) and the University of Tennessee.
In 1969 Buchanan became the first director of the Center for the Study of Public Choice. He was president of the Southern Economic Association in 1963 and of the Western Economic Association in 1983 and 1984, and vice president of the American Economic Association in 1971.
In 1988, Buchanan returned to Hawaii for the first time since World War II and gave a series of lectures later published by the University Press.
Buchanan died January 9, 2013, in Blacksburg, Virginia, at age 93. The New York Times commented that the Nobel Prize-winning economist who championed public choice theory influenced a "generation of conservative thinking about deficits, taxes and the size of government". The Badische Zeitung (Freiburg) called Buchanan, who showed how politicians undermine fair and simple tax systems, the "founder of the new political economy".
Buchanan's legacy lives on through a fellowship program at the University Honors College of Middle Tennessee State University.
Buchanan was largely responsible for the rebirth of political economy as a scholarly pursuit. He emphasized that public policy cannot be considered solely in terms of distribution, but is instead always a matter of setting the rules of the game that engender a pattern of exchange and distribution. His work in public choice theory is often interpreted as the quintessential instance of economics imperialism; however, Amartya Sen has argued that Buchanan should not be identified with economics imperialism, since he has done more than most to introduce ethics, legal political thinking, and indeed social thinking into economics. Crucial to understanding Buchanan's system of thought is the distinction he made between politics and policy. Politics is about the rules of the game, where policy is focused on strategies that players adopt within a given set of rules. "Questions about what are good rules of the game are in the domain of social philosophy, whereas questions about the strategies that players will adopt given those rules is the domain of economics, and it is the play between the rules (social philosophy) and the strategies (economics) that constitutes what Buchanan refers to as constitutional political economy".
Buchanan supported a 100% marginal tax rate on all inheritances above a certain amount.
According to Buchanan the ethic of constitutionalism is a key for constitutional order and "may be called the idealized Kantian world" where the individual "who is making the ordering, along with substantially all of his fellows, adopts the moral law as a general rule for behaviour". Buchanan rejects "any organic conception of the state as superior in wisdom to the citizens of this state". This philosophical position forms the basis of constitutional economics. Buchanan believed that every constitution is created for at least several generations of citizens. Therefore, it must be able to balance the interests of the state, society, and each individual.
Buchanan's work Cost and Choice (see below in List of publications) is often overlooked for its contributions in defining the parameters of opportunity cost. In it, he writes that the costs to individuals determine what the price of a good or service is. For example, the physical work that is required to hunt an animal as well as the price of the tools necessary to hunt it and the time spent hunting all play a factor in the price an individual places on the meat. The asking price of the meat will vary from person to person because the input costs required for each person are not the same.
Buchanan is considered to be a quasi-member of the Austrian school of economics, not formally associated with the school but sharing many common beliefs. As Buchanan puts it: "I certainly have a great deal of affinity with Austrian economics and I have no objections to being called an Austrian. Friedrich Hayek and Mises might consider me an Austrian but, surely some of the others would not." Buchanan went on to say that: "I didn't become acquainted with Mises until I wrote an article on individual choice and voting in the market in 1954. After I had finished the first draft I went back to see what Mises had said in Human Action. I found out, amazingly, that he had come closer to saying what I was trying to say than anybody else."
James Buchanan is considered the architect of public choice theory. In fact, his work within Public Choice earned him the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1986. Public choice theory focuses on people's decision making process within the political realm. Buchanan used both the fields of economics and political science to help develop Public Choice. The same principles used to interpret people's decisions in a market setting are applied to voting, lobbying, campaigning, and even candidates. Buchanan maintains that a person's first instinct is to make their decisions based upon their own self-interest. Buchanan explains public choice theory as "politics without romance" because, he says, many of the promises made in politics are intended to appear concerned with the interest of others, but in reality are the products of selfish ulterior motives. According to this view, political decisions, on both sides of the voting booth, are rarely made with the intention of helping anyone but the one making the decision. Buchanan argues that by analyzing the behaviors of voters and politicians that their actions could become easily predicted.
In 2017, Nancy MacLean published Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. Her book claims that Buchanan saw a conflict between "economic freedom and political liberty", and that he sought "conspiratorial secrecy" in pursuit of "a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich". The book has garnered heavy criticism from both libertarian and non-libertarian writers for its perceived flaws in the use of quotes, sources, and the accuracy of its overall thesis. Political scientists Henry Farrell (of George Washington University) and Steven Teles (of Johns Hopkins University) described the book as "conspiracy theory in the guise of intellectual history." In a review by economists Jean-Baptiste Fleury and Alain Marciano in the Journal of Economic Literature, they write, "MacLean's account is marred by many misunderstandings about public choice theory" and "in the midst of abundant archival material, her historical narrative is, at best sketchy, and is replete with significantly flawed arguments, misplaced citations, and dubious conjectures. Overall, MacLean tends to overinterpret certain aspects in Buchanan's life and thought, while she overlooks others that are equally important in understanding his work and influence."
In particular, the claim that Buchanan supported segregation has been disputed as untrue and contradicted by evidence that MacLean's book omits. Buchanan played a key role in bringing prominent South African apartheid critic William Harold Hutt as guest lecturer to the University of Virginia in 1965, during which he also sharply condemned Jim Crow laws.
Buchanan's works include:
A listing of Buchanan's publications from 1949 to 1986 can be found at the Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 1987, 89(1), pp. 17–37.
| Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Robert M. Solow
Club goods (also artificially scarce goods) are a type of good in economics, sometimes classified as a subtype of public goods that are excludable but non-rivalrous, at least until reaching a point where congestion occurs.
Often these goods exhibit high excludability, but at the same time low rivalry in consumption. Because of that low rivalry in consumption characteristic, club goods have essentially zero marginal costs and are generally provided by what is commonly known as natural monopolies.
Furthermore Club goods have artificial scarcity. Club theory is the area of economics that studies these goods.
One of the most famous provisions was published by Buchanan in 1965 "An Economic Theory of Clubs", in which he addresses the question of how the size of the group influences the voluntary provision of a public good and more fundamentally provides a theoretical structure of communal or collective ownership-consumption arrangements.Constitutional economics
Constitutional economics is a research program in economics and constitutionalism that has been described as explaining the choice "of alternative sets of legal-institutional-constitutional rules that constrain the choices and activities of economic and political agents". This extends beyond the definition of "the economic analysis of constitutional law" and is distinct from explaining the choices of economic and political agents within those rules, a subject of orthodox economics.Constitutional economics takes into account the significant impacts of political economic decisions as opposed to limiting analysis to economic relationships as functions of the dynamics of distribution of marketable goods and services. "The political economist who seeks to offer normative advice, must, of necessity, concentrate on the process or structure within which political decisions are observed to be made. Existing constitutions, or structures or rules, are the subject of critical scrutiny."Constitutional economics has been characterized as a practical approach to apply the tools of economics to constitutional matters. For example, a major concern of every nation is the proper allocation of available national economic and financial resources. The legal solution to this problem falls within the scope of constitutional economics. Another example is to study the "compatibility of effective economic decisions with the existing constitutional framework and the limitations or the favorable conditions created by that framework".Frank Knight
Frank Hyneman Knight (November 7, 1885 – April 15, 1972) was an American economist who spent most of his career at the University of Chicago, where he became one of the founders of the Chicago school. Nobel laureates Milton Friedman, George Stigler and James M. Buchanan were all students of Knight at Chicago. Ronald Coase said that Knight, without teaching him, was a major influence on his thinking. F.A. Hayek considered Knight to be one of the major figures in preserving and promoting classical liberal thought in the twentieth century. Paul Samuelson named Knight (along with Harry Gunnison Brown, Allyn Abbott Young, Henry Ludwell Moore, Wesley Clair Mitchell, Jacob Viner, and Henry Schultz) as one of the several "American saints in economics" born after 1860.Geoffrey Brennan
Geoffrey Brennan (born September 15, 1944) is an Australian philosopher. He is a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a professor of political science at Duke University. When not teaching in the US Brennan is a faculty member in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University.
Trained as an economist, Brennan has collaborated extensively with Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan and became the first non-American president of the Public Choice Society in 2002.
Brennan has published widely on rational actor theory, philosophy, and economics, and sits on the editorial board of the academic journal Representation. He has held academic positions in several related departments at Australia National University and Virginia Tech. With Loren Lomasky he is winner of the American Philosophical Association's Gregory Kavka Prize in Political Philosophy for the paper "Is There a Duty to Vote?"
Brennan is a golfer, and a semi-professional singer (for some years a national recitalist with the ABC).James M. Buchanan (diplomat)
James Madison Buchanan (May 1803 – August 23, 1876) was a Baltimore, Maryland jurist and diplomat.John Carroll LeGrand
John Carroll LeGrand (1814 – December 28, 1861) was an American politician and jurist who served as chief judge of the supreme court of the U.S. state of Maryland, the Court of Appeals, and as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
LeGrand was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Samuel D. LeGrand. He attended private school, studied law under James M. Buchanan, and was admitted to the bar around 1837.
LeGrand served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1839 to 1841, including a period as Speaker in 1841. He later served as Secretary of State of Maryland from 1842 to 1844, and wrote a book, Oration on the Landing of the Pilgrims of Maryland which was published in May 1843.
From 1844 to 1851, LeGrand served as Associate Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Maryland. In 1851, he was appointed Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, where he served until 1861. LeGrand was defeated for re-election by Unionist candidate Silas Morris Cochran, after a letter he wrote to the Baltimore Sun calling for Maryland to secede from the United States was publicized.
LeGrand never married. He died in 1861, and is interred in Greenmount Cemetery.Public choice
Public choice theory (or Public choice) is "the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science". Its content includes the study of political behavior. In political science, it is the subset of positive political theory that studies self-interested agents (voters, politicians, bureaucrats) and their interactions, which can be represented in a number of ways – using (for example) standard constrained utility maximization, game theory, or decision theory.The Journal of Economic Literature's classification code regards public choice as a subarea of Microeconomics, under JEL: D7: "Analysis of Collective Decision-Making" (specifically, JEL: D72: "Economic Models of Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior").Public
Choice analysis has roots in positive analysis ("what is") but is often used for normative purposes ("what ought to be") in order to identify a problem or to suggest improvements to constitutional rules (i.e., constitutional economics).Public choice theory is also closely related to social-choice theory, a mathematical approach to aggregation of individual interests, welfares, or votes. Much early work had aspects of both, and both fields use the tools of economics and game theory. Since voter behavior influences the behavior of public officials, public-choice theory often uses results from social-choice theory. General treatments of public choice may also be classified under public economics.Richard E. Wagner
Richard Edward Wagner (born April 28, 1941) is an American economist. He is professor of economics at George Mason University. He works primarily in the fields of public finance and public choice.
Wagner received his doctorate in economics from the University of Virginia, studying under James M. Buchanan. Wagner's work centers on the notion that macroeconomic phenomena are emergent, rather than being objects of choice. In addition to Buchanan, major influences on his thought include Carl Menger and Thomas Schelling.Robert Tollison
Robert D. Tollison (1942–October 24, 2016) was an American economist who specialized in public choice theory.Samaritan's dilemma
The Samaritan's dilemma is a dilemma in the act of charity. It hinges on the idea that when presented with charity, in some location such as a soup kitchen, a person will act in one of two ways: using the charity to improve their situation, or coming to rely on charity as a means of survival. The term Samaritan's dilemma was coined by economist James M. Buchanan.The argument against charity frequently cites the Samaritan's dilemma as reason to forgo charitable contributions. It is also a common argument against communism and socialism, claiming that state aid is equivalent to charity, and that the beneficiaries of such aid will become slothful or otherwise negligent members of society. The more aid that is received the less likely the recipient will seek out a permanent solution for their condition. The dilemma's name is a reference to the biblical Parable of the Good Samaritan.Schweizer Monat
The Schweizer Monat. Die Autorenzeitschrift für Politik, Wirtschaft und Kultur ("Swiss Month. Author magazine for Politics, Economy and Culture"), née Schweizer Monatshefte, is a Swiss monthly magazine based in Zürich. Founded in 1921 and relaunched in 2011, it maintains a liberal point of view and is edited by Michael Wiederstein.
Former and current authors includes:
Nobel laureates such as Friedrich August von Hayek, James M. Buchanan, Gary Becker, Vernon Smith, Mario Vargas Llosa and Muhammad YunuLiterary figures such as Hermann Hesse, Hugo Loetscher, Hermann Burger, Adolf Muschg, Peter von Matt, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Adam Johnson, Christian Kracht, Klaus Modick, Peter Stamm, Jonas Lüscher and Thomas Hürlimann
Scientists and intellectuals such as Karl Popper, Wilhelm Röpke, Theodor W. Adorno, Ralf Dahrendorf, Steven Pinker, Michael Graziano, Deirdre McCloskey, Niall Ferguson, David Woodard, Sherry Turkle, Boris Groys, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Herfried Münkler, Ulrich Beck and Peter Sloterdijk.Each issue contains interviews with:
Swiss entrepreneurs like Daniel Borel, Thomas Schmidheiny and Rolf SoironPoliticians like Pascal Couchepin, Adrienne Clarkson, Gerhard Schröder and Cédric WermuthEconomists like Michael Porter, Parag Khanna and Deirdre McCloskeyIntellectuals like Philipp Sarasin, Norbert Bolz, Rolf Dobelli and Matt RidleyScientists like Didier Sornette and Gerd Folkers.The Calculus of Consent
The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy is a book published by economists James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock in 1962. It is considered to be one of the classic works from the discipline of public choice in economics and political science. This work presents the basic principles of public choice theory.Tragedy of the anticommons
The tragedy of the anticommons is a type of coordination breakdown, in which a single resource has numerous rightsholders who prevent others from using it, frustrating what would be a socially desirable outcome. It is a mirror-image of the older concept of tragedy of the commons, in which numerous rights holders' combined use exceeds the capacity of a resource and depletes or destroys it. The "tragedy of the anticommons" covers a range of coordination failures including patent thickets, and submarine patents. Overcoming these breakdowns can be difficult, but there are assorted means, including eminent domain, laches, patent pools, or other licensing organizations.The term originally appeared in Michael Heller's 1998 article of the same name and is the thesis of his 2008 book. The model was formalized by James M. Buchanan and Yong Yoon. In a 1998 Science article, Heller and Rebecca Eisenberg, while not disputing the role of patents in general in motivating invention and disclosure, argue that biomedical research was one of several key areas where competing patent rights could actually prevent useful and affordable products from reaching the marketplace.Tremontiani
Tremontiani referred to the faction around Giulio Tremonti, a leading member of The People of Freedom (PdL), a political party in Italy.
Close to Tremonti is ResPublica, a liberal think tank led by Eugenio Belloni. The scientific committee of the foundation includes former leading liberal figures of the PdL, such as Giuliano Urbani, Vittorio Mathieu and Luigi Compagna, and international scholars, such as James M. Buchanan and James Heckman.In October 2012 Tremonti left the PdL in order to launch the Labour and Freedom List, which would form an alliance with Lega Nord for the 2013 general election.University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee (The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, UT Knoxville, UTK, or UT) is a public research university in Knoxville, Tennessee. Founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state, it is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, with ten undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges. It hosts almost 28,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. In its 2019 universities ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranked UT 115th among all national universities and 52nd among public institutions of higher learning. Seven alumni have been selected as Rhodes Scholars. James M. Buchanan, M.S. '41, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economics. UT's ties to nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, established under UT President Andrew Holt and continued under the UT–Battelle partnership, allow for considerable research opportunities for faculty and students.
Also affiliated with the university are the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, and the University of Tennessee Arboretum, which occupies 250 acres (100 ha) of nearby Oak Ridge and features hundreds of species of plants indigenous to the region. The university is a direct partner of the University of Tennessee Medical Center, which is one of two Level I trauma centers in East Tennessee.
The University of Tennessee is the only university in the nation to have three presidential papers editing projects. The university holds collections of the papers of all three U.S. presidents from Tennessee—Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. UT is one of the oldest public universities in the United States and the oldest secular institution west of the Eastern Continental Divide.Virginia school of political economy
The Virginia School of political economy is a school of economic thought originating in universities of Virginia (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University) in the 1950s and 1960s, mainly focusing on public choice theory, constitutional economics, and law and economics.Walter Eucken Institut
The Walter Eucken Institut is a German ordo-liberal economic think tank based in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
The Institute was founded in 1954, four years after the death of economist Walter Eucken, by a number of his friends and pupils. The Institute's creation was supported by Ludwig Erhard, then Secretary of Economic Affairs and later Chancellor of West Germany. Honorary Presidents have included Nobel laureates Friedrich Hayek and James M. Buchanan.
Since September 2010, the institute is directed by Lars Feld.The Walter Eucken Institute's research interest is constitutional and institutional questions in economics and social sciences, including preserving and developing a free market order, classical liberal ideas and their institutional realisation, and the economic constitution of the European Union.Whither Socialism?
Whither Socialism? is a book on economics by Joseph Stiglitz, first published in 1994 by MIT Press.
|New economic history|
|New social economics|
|Public choice school|
|Law and economics|
|Business and finance|