James M. Buchanan
James McGill Buchanan Jr.
October 3, 1919
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 9, 2013 93) (aged|
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|| Thomas Hobbes |
John Stuart Mill
Ludwig von Mises
|Contributions|| Public choice theory |
|Awards||Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1986)|
|Information at IDEAS / RePEc|
|Part of a series on the|
| Chicago school|
James McGill Buchanan Jr. ( // ; 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 as well as of the Institute of Economic Affairs, 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.
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 World War II, 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's original political and economic views leaned heavily socialist and were reinforced by his stint spent in the Navy. While serving in the military, Buchanan felt soldiers from the south and west regions were discriminated against in favor of soldiers from the New England region. He believed the soldiers from the north-east universities were viewed as a part of the establishment and received promotions to officer because of their affiliations. Buchanan would state in an interviewwith Karen Horn, “Out of the 20 boys from the establishment universities, 12 or 13 were picked. against a background of a total of 600. It was overtly discriminatory towards those of us who were not members of the establishment,”. Buchanan went so far as to say he would have become a communist had he been approached by a recruiter. Buchanan would go on to say that his socialist views were less "pro government" and more "anti-big business". His ideology did not change until attending The University of Chicago, where he began studying under Frank Knight. Then he started to advocate for a free market system.
Buchanan was the founder of the new Virginia school of political economy.
He taught at the University of Virginia from 1956-1968, where he founded the Thomas Jefferson Center for Studies in Political Economy. From 1955 to 1956 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy.
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". He and his wife, Ann Bakke, a nurse, had no children, but held close family ties with his sisters and nephews.
Buchanan's legacy lives on through the Political Economic Research Institute (PERI) at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) which provides fellowships for both undergraduate and graduate students.PERI at MTSU works with MTSU's Honors College for its undergrad fellows. The Honors college also has its own Buchanan Fellowship. These fellowships honor Buchanan's academic achievement in many subjects besides economics. With respect to PERI's graduate fellowships, these are motived by academic work in the field of economics.
Buchanan's work focused on public finance, the public debt, voting, rigorous analysis of the theory of logrolling, macroeconomics, constitutional economics, and libertarian theory.
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".
In 1972, like George McGovern, Buchanan supported a 100% marginal tax rate on all inheritances above a certain amount.
When conducting his economic analysis, Buchanan used methodological individualism, rational choice, individual utility maximization, and politics as exchange.
Buchanan's important contribution to constitutionalism is his development of the sub-discipline of constitutional economics.
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. His work within Public Choice earned him the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1986.[ citation needed ] 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, which varied from previous models where government officials acted in constituents' best 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.
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.
The Austrian School is a heterodox school of economic thought that is based on methodological individualism, the concept that social phenomena result exclusively from the motivations and actions of individuals.
Friedrich August von Hayek, often referred to by his initials F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian-British economist and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for their work on money and economic fluctuations, and the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena. His account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals coordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics, leading to his prize.
Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, economic historian and political theorist. Rothbard was a founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics, and other subjects.
Public choice, or public choice theory, 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 and their interactions, which can be represented in a number of ways – using standard constrained utility maximization, game theory, or decision theory. It is the origin and intellectual foundation of contemporary work in political economy.
The Chicago school of economics is a neoclassical school of economic thought associated with the work of the faculty at the University of Chicago, some of whom have constructed and popularized its principles. Milton Friedman and George Stigler are considered the leading scholars of the Chicago school.
The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is an international organization composed of economists, philosophers, historians, intellectuals and business leaders. The members see the MPS as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by classical Western economists, political scientists and philosophers. Its founders included Friedrich Hayek, Frank Knight, Karl Popper, Ludwig von Mises, George Stigler and Milton Friedman. The society advocates freedom of expression, free market economic policies and the political values of an open society. Further, the society seeks to discover ways in which free enterprise can replace many functions currently provided by government entities.
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.
Johan Gustaf Knut Wicksell was a leading Swedish economist of the Stockholm school. His economic contributions would influence both the Keynesian and Austrian schools of economic thought. He was married to the noted feminist Anna Bugge.
Armen Albert Alchian was an American economist. He spent almost his entire career at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A major microeconomic theorist, he is known as one of the founders of new institutional economics and widely acknowledged for his work on property rights.
Gordon Tullock was an economist and professor of law and Economics at the George Mason University School of Law. He is best known for his work on public choice theory, the application of economic thinking to political issues. He was one of the founding figures in his field.
The Austrian business cycle theory (ABCT) is an economic theory developed by the Austrian School of economics about how business cycles occur. The theory views business cycles as the consequence of excessive growth in bank credit due to artificially low interest rates set by a central bank or fractional reserve banks. The Austrian business cycle theory originated in the work of Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Hayek won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974 in part for his work on this theory.
Peter Joseph Boettke is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a professor of economics and philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, vice president for research, and director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.
The Virginia School of political economy is a school of economic thought originating in universities of Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, mainly focusing on public choice theory, constitutional economics, and law and economics.
Robert D. Tollison was an American economist who specialized in public choice theory.
Gordon L. Brady is an American Economist, Professor and Writer and resides in Vienna, Virginia.
David L. Prychitko is an American economist of the Austrian School. Prychitko is a critic of Marxism, but defends the idea of workers' self-managed firms in a freed market system. Prychitko is a tenured professor at Northern Michigan University.
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. Instead, constitutional economics takes into account the impacts of political economic decisions as opposed to limiting its analysis to economic relationships as functions of the dynamics of distribution of marketable goods and services.
Jeff Ray Clark is an American economist specializing in public finance, public choice, and managerial economics. He is the Scott L. Probasco, Jr. Chair of Free Enterprise at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
William Breit (1933–2011) was an American economist, mystery novelist, and professional comedian. Breit was born in New Orleans. He received his undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Texas and his Ph.D from Michigan State University in 1961. He was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Economics at Louisiana State University (1961-1965) On the recommendation of Milton Friedman he was interviewed and hired at the University of Virginia where he was Associate Professor and Professor of Economics (1965-1983). He returned to his San Antonio as the E.M. Stevens Distinguished Professor of Economics at Trinity University in 1983 and retired as the Vernon F. Taylor Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 2002. He is considered an expert in the history of economic thought and anti-trust economics. He established the Nobel Laureate Lecture Series at Trinity University and is most notable as a mystery novelist where their murder mysteries are solved by applying basic economic principles.
The benefit principle is a concept in the theory of taxation from public finance. It bases taxes to pay for public-goods expenditures on a politically-revealed willingness to pay for benefits received. The principle is sometimes likened to the function of prices in allocating private goods. In its use for assessing the efficiency of taxes and appraising fiscal policy, the benefit approach was initially developed by Knut Wicksell (1896) and Erik Lindahl (1919), two economists of the Stockholm School. Wicksell's near-unanimity formulation of the principle was premised on a just income distribution. The approach was extended in the work of Paul Samuelson, Richard Musgrave, and others. It has also been applied to such subjects as tax progressivity, corporation taxes, and taxes on property or wealth. The unanimity-rule aspect of Wicksell's approach in linking taxes and expenditures is cited as a point of departure for the study of constitutional economics in the work of James Buchanan.