James M. Buchanan
Buchanan in September 2010
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|| 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, 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.
An economist is a practitioner in the social science discipline of economics.
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 is one of the founding figures in his field.
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.
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.
Murfreesboro is a city in, and the county seat of, Rutherford County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 108,755 according to the 2010 census, up from 68,816 residents certified in 2000. In 2018, census estimates showed a population of 141,344. The city is home to both the center of population of Tennessee and the geographic center of Tennessee. Murfreesboro is located 34 miles (55 km) southeast of downtown Nashville in the Nashville metropolitan area of Middle Tennessee. It is Tennessee's fastest growing major city and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Murfreesboro is also home to Middle Tennessee State University, the second largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee, with 22,729 total students as of fall 2014.
Scotch-IrishAmericans are American descendants of Ulster Protestants, who migrated during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 2017 American Community Survey, 5.39 million reported Scottish ancestry, an additional 3 million identified more specifically with Scotch-Irish ancestry, and many people who claim "American ancestry" may actually be of Scotch-Irish ancestry. The term Scotch-Irish is used primarily in the United States, with people in Great Britain or Ireland who are of a similar ancestry identifying as Ulster Scots people. These included 200,000 Scottish Presbyterians who settled in Ireland between 1608 and 1697. Many English-born settlers of this period were also Presbyterians, although the denomination is today most strongly identified with Scotland. When King Charles I attempted to force these Presbyterians into the Church of England in the 1630s, many chose to re-emigrate to North America where religious liberty was greater. Later attempts to force the Church of England's control over dissident Protestants in Ireland led to further waves of emigration to the trans-Atlantic colonies.
John Price Buchanan was an American politician and farmers' advocate. He served as Governor of Tennessee from 1891 to 1893, and was president of the Tennessee Farmers' Alliance and Laborers' Union in the late 1880s. Buchanan's lone term as governor was largely marred by the Coal Creek War, an armed uprising by coal miners aimed at ending the state's convict lease system.
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.
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.
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.
Frank Hyneman Knight 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 as one of the several "American saints in economics" born after 1860.
Buchanan was the founder of a new Virginia school of political economy.
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.
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.
The University of Virginia is a public research university in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was founded in 1819 by Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson. It is known for its historic foundations, student-run honor code, and secret societies. UVA is the flagship university of Virginia and home to Jefferson's Academical Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The U.S.- Italy Fulbright Commission is a bi-national, non-profit organization promoting the opportunities for study, research, and teaching in Italy and the United States. The commission acts as executor of the Fulbright Program to and from Italy. Since 1948, the commission has fostered mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. The commission offers competitive, merit-based grants for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.
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.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech and by the initialisms VT and VPI, is a public, land-grant, research university with its main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. It also has educational facilities in six regions statewide and a study-abroad site in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. Through its Corps of Cadets ROTC program, Virginia Tech is also designated as one of six senior military colleges in the United States.
George Mason University is a public research university in Fairfax, Virginia. Mason began as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1956 and later became an independent institution in 1972. It has since grown to become the largest four-year public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The university is named after the founding father George Mason, a Virginia planter and politician who authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the basis for the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Mason operates four campuses in Virginia, with a fifth campus in Songdo, South Korea.
Emeritus, in its current usage, is an adjective used to designate a retired chairman, professor, pastor, bishop, pope, director, president, prime minister, rabbi, emperor, or other person.
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'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".
Buchanan supported a 100% marginal tax rate on all inheritances above a certain amount.
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. 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.
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 Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". Hayek was also a major social theorist and political philosopher of the 20th century and his account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals co-ordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics, leading to his Nobel Prize.
Public choicetheory 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.
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.
Government failure, in the context of public economics, is an economic inefficiency caused by a government intervention, if the inefficiency would not exist in a true free market. It can be viewed in contrast to a market failure, which is an economic inefficiency that results from the free market itself, and can potentially be corrected through government regulation. The idea of government failure is associated with the policy argument that, even if particular markets may not meet the standard conditions of perfect competition required to ensure social optimality, government intervention may make matters worse rather than better.
Richard M. Ebeling is an American libertarian author who was the president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008.
E. C. Pasour, Jr. is an American economist and Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University. He received a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Michigan State University and spent a sabbatical at the University of Chicago on a NSF Fellowship.
Rechtsstaat is a doctrine in continental European legal thinking, originating in German jurisprudence. It can be translated into English as "rule of law", alternatively "legal state", "state of law", "state of justice", "state of rights", or "state based on justice and integrity".
Geoffrey Brennan 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.
Budget theory is the academic study of political and social motivations behind government and civil society budgeting. Classic theorists in Public Budgeting include Henry Adams, William F. Willoughby, V. O. Key, Jr., and, more recently, Aaron Wildavsky. Notable recent theorists include Baumgartner and Jones--Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones, Richard Fenno, Allen Schick, Dennis Ippolito, Naomi Caiden, Irene Rubin, James D. Savage, Thomas Greitens and Gary Wamsley. Budget theory was a central topic during the Progressive Era and was much discussed in municipal bureaus and other academic and quasi-academic facilities of that time such as the nascent Brookings Institution.
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.
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.
Nancy K. MacLean is an American historian. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. MacLean's research focuses on race, gender, labor history and social movements in 20th century U.S. history, with particular attention to the U.S. South.
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| Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics |
Robert M. Solow