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James M. Buchanan

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Title: James M. Buchanan  
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Subject: Public economics, 2013, George Mason University, List of Nobel laureates affiliated with the University of Chicago, James Heckman
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James M. Buchanan

James M. Buchanan
James Buchanan at a panel discussion on his contributions to social philosophy and political economy in September 2010.
Born (1919-10-03)October 3, 1919
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, United States
Died January 9, 2013(2013-01-09) (aged 93)
Blacksburg, Virginia
Nationality American
Institution George Mason University
Virginia Tech
University of Virginia
Field Public choice
School/tradition Constitutional economics
Alma mater University of Chicago
University of Tennessee
State Teachers College, Murfreesboro
Influences Frank Knight
Knut Wicksell
Friedrich Hayek
Ludwig von Mises
Influenced Elinor Ostrom
Tyler Cowen
Contributions Public choice theory
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1986)
Information at IDEAS/RePEc

James McGill Buchanan, Jr. (; October 3, 1919 – January 9, 2013) was an George Mason University.


  • Biography 1
  • Approach to economic analysis 2
  • List of publications 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7


Buchanan was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the eldest child of James and Lila (Scott) Buchanan. He was a grandson of John P. Buchanan, a governor of Tennessee in the 1890s.[2] He graduated from Middle Tennessee State Teachers College, now known as Middle Tennessee State University, in 1940. Buchanan completed his M.S. from the University of Tennessee in 1941. He spent the war years on the staff of Admiral Nimitz in Honolulu, and it was during that time he met and married Anne Bakke on 5 October 1945; Anne, of Norwegian descent, was working as a nurse at the military base in Hawaii.

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 Knight, converted him to "a zealous advocate of the market order".[3] Buchanan received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1948 for his thesis "Fiscal Equity in a Federal State," in which he was heavily influenced by Frank H. Knight. It was also at Chicago that he read for the first time and found enlightening the work of Knut Wicksell. Photographs of Knight and Wicksell have hung from his office walls ever since.

Buchanan was the founder of a new Virginia school of political economy.

He taught at the University of Virginia from 1956–1968, where he founded the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

He taught at

  • Biography at GMU
  • Ideological Profile from Econ Journal Watch
  • Member of the Board of Advisors at The Independent Institute
  • YouTube Reflections on the Life and Work of James Buchanan
  • James M. Buchanan (1919–2013).  
  • 'The Hobbes Problem: From Machiavelli to Buchanan' by Deirdre McCloskey.
  • Dr James M. Buchanan at Find a Grave

External links

  • Atkinson, Anthony B., 'James M. Buchanan's Contributions to Economics', The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 1987, Vol. 89, No. 1, pp. 5–15.
  • Brennan, G., Kliemt, H., and Tollison, R.D. (eds.) Method and Morals in Constitutional Economics: Essays in Honor of James M. Buchanan (Berlin: Springer, 2002).
  • Kasper, Sherryl. The Revival of Laissez-Faire in American Macroeconomic Theory: A Case Study of Its Pioneers (2002) ch 6
  • Meadowcroft, John. James M. Buchanan (London: Continuum, 2011).
  • Pittard, Homer. The First Fifty Years (Murfreesboro, TN: Middle Tennessee State College, 1961) pp. 136, 173
  • Reisman, David A. The Political Economy of James Buchanan (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990).


  1. ^ "Mont Pelerin Society Directory".  
  2. ^ Reuben Kyle, From Nashville to the Nobel Prize: The Buchanans of Tennessee (Twin Oaks Press, 2012).
  3. ^
  4. ^ William C. Mitchell (1988). "Virginia, Rochester, and Bloomington: Twenty-Five Years of Public Choice and Political Science". Public Choice 56 (2): 101–119.  
  5. ^ Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Universidad Francisco Marroquín
  6. ^ Peter Barenboim, Natalya Merkulova. "The 25th Anniversary of Constitutional Economics: The Russian Model and Legal Reform in Russia, in The World Rule of Law Movement and Russian Legal Reform", edited by Francis Neate and Holly Nielsen, Justitsinform, Moscow (2007).
  7. ^ "James M. Buchanan, Economic Scholar and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  8. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (January 9, 2013). "James M. Buchanan, Economic Scholar and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 93". New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Nobelpreisträger James M. Buchanan ist tot". Badische Zeitung (in Deutsch). January 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ Boettke, P.J. (1998). James M. Buchanan and the rebirth of political economy, in (S. Pressman and R. Holt, eds.), Against the Grain: Dissent in Economics, pp. 21–39, Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1998
  11. ^ Amartya Sen, in Economics and Sociology, ch. 14, Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 263
  12. ^ Swedberg, R. (1990). Economics and Sociology: On Redefining Their Boundaries, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 263
  13. ^ "Where Economics and Philosophy Meet: Review of The Elgar Companion to Economics and Philosophy with responses from the authors", The Economic Journal, 116 (June), 2006
  14. ^ menu, Library of Economics and Liberty., 1990. "The Domain of Constitutional Economics," Constitutional Political Economy, 1(1), pp. 1–18. Also as at 1990b & [1].
  15. ^ James Buchanan, The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty, Volume 1, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1999, p. 314
  16. ^ Buchanan, J., Logical Formulations of Constitutional Liberty, Vol. 1, Indianapolis, 1999, p. 372.
  17. ^
  18. ^


See also

  • He listed his principal books as of 1988 as: Liberty, Market and State, 1985; The Reason of Rules (with G. Brennan),1985; The Power to Tax (with G. Brennan),1980; What should Economists Do? 1979; Freedom in Constitutional Contract,1978; Democracy in Deficit (with R. Wagner), 1977; The Limits of Liberty, 1975; Cost and Choice, 1969; Demand and Supply of Public Goods, 1968; Public Finance in Democratic Process, 1967; The Calculus of Consent (with G. Tullock),1962; Fiscal Theory and Political Economy, 1960; Public Principles of Public Debt, 1958.
  • The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan by James M. Buchanan, at the Library of Economics and Liberty. Twenty-volume work, copyrighted but nine of the 20 volumes are free to read and access; fully searchable online. (Also available at: The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan.)
  • A listing of Buchanan's publications from 1949 to 1986 can be found at The Scandinavian Journal Of Economics, 1987, Vol. 89. No. 1, pp. 17–37. These are available through the Library of Economics and Liberty at:
    • Public Principles of Public Debt: A Defense and Restatement
    • The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, with Gordon Tullock
    • Public Finance in Democratic Process: Fiscal Institutions and Individual Choice
    • The Demand and Supply of Public Goods, by James M. Buchanan, at the Library of Economics and Liberty
    • Cost and Choice: An Inquiry in Economic Theory
    • The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan
    • Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes, with Richard E. Wagner
    • The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution, with Geoffrey Brennan
    • The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy, with Geoffrey Brennan
  • Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism (Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar, 2005)
  • Economics from the Outside In: Better than Plowing and Beyond (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2007)

List of publications

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.[17] 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. 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."[18]

Buchanan's important contribution to 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.[16]

Buchanan was largely responsible for the rebirth of political economy as a scholarly pursuit.[10] Buchanan emphasized that public policy cannot be considered in terms of distribution, but is instead always a question of the choice over rules of the game that engender a pattern of exchange and distribution. His work in public choice theory is often interpreted as the quintessential case of economic imperialism;[11] however, Amartya Sen argued that Buchanan should not be identified with economic imperialism, since Buchanan has done more than most to introduce ethics, legal political thinking, and indeed social thinking into economics.[12] 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”.[13]

Approach to economic analysis

Buchanan died January 9, 2013, in Blacksburg, Virginia, at age 93.[7] 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".[8] The Badische Zeitung called Buchanan, who showed how politicians undermine fair and simple tax systems, the "founder of the New Political Economy".[9]

Buchanan's work focused on public finance, the public debt, voting, rigorous analysis of the theory of logrolling, macroeconomics, constitutional economics, and libertarian theory.[6]

In 1988 Buchanan returned to Hawaii for the first time since the War and gave a series of lectures later published by the University Press. In 2001 Buchanan received an honorary doctoral degree from Universidad Francisco Marroquín, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, for his contribution to economics.[5]

He also taught at Florida State University and the University of Tennessee.


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