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1986 Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences
James M. Buchanan

James McGill Buchanan Jr. (3 October 1919 – 9 January 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.


Buchanan, James M. (1919-2013), by Peter T. Leeson, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
James M. Buchanan is one of the originators of public choice theory and among the foremost economists of the 20th century. Together with Gordon Tullock, Buchanan revolutionized the way economists view political economy by introducing motivational symmetry between public and private actors. Before Buchanan's contributions, it was standard practice to view market failures as prima facie evidence of the need for government intervention. Public choice theory forced scholars to confront the fact that government failures may be worse than the market failures the government is introduced to correct.
Related Topics: Government, Politics
James M. Buchanan (1919-2013), The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
Includes picture and list of selected works
James Buchanan is the cofounder, along with Gordon Tullock, of public choice theory. Buchanan entered the University of Chicago's graduate economics program as a 'libertarian socialist.' After six weeks of taking Frank Knight's course in price theory, recalls Buchanan, he had been converted into a zealous free marketer. Buchanan's next big conversion came while reading an article in German by Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. The obscure 1896 article's message was that only taxes and government spending that are unanimously approved can be justified.

Images - James Buchanan
200x200 JPEG, grayscale


3 Oct 1919, James McGill Buchanan Jr., in Murfreesboro, Tennessee


9 Jan 2013, in Blacksburg, Virginia


Laissez Faire Books
Buchanan has been extraordinarily productive. He wrote over 300 articles and 75 reviews ... He is the author or co-author of 37 books ... The best-known work on public choice economics is The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (1965), which Buchanan wrote with Tullock when both were at the University of Virginia. If this wasn't really the first book with public choice type of analysis, it did inspire large numbers of economists to pursue public choice and produce perhaps thousands of books and articles over the years.

Awards Received

1986 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
Includes press release, short profile, photograph and award ceremony speech
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the1986 Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Professor James McGill Buchanan, George Mason University, Virginia, USA, for his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.


George Mason University, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics
Institute for Humane Studies, Guest lecturer
Mont Pelerin Society, President, 1984-86

Web Pages

Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: James Buchanan - Libertarian
Biography (from Laissez Faire Books) and photo
Why do good people almost always turn into scoundrels after they become part of the government? As Buchanan (b. 1919) explained, it's simply because they're pursuing their own interests. Along with Gordon Tullock, Buchanan helped pioneer 'public choice' economics which involves analyzing how government officials make their choices and pursue their self-interest, generating pressure for bigger budgets, higher taxes, more regulations and overall more power. Buchanan has explained how various constitutional arrangements affect the incentives officials face and the decisions they make.
Economics - Faculty and Staff: James M Buchanan
Page for Emeritus Faculty at George Mason University; short profile and photograph, includes links to Sep 1995 interview with The Region and his Collected Works
James M. Buchanan, Nobel Prize winner in Economic Science, 1986, is currently Advisory General Director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics, Board of Visitors, President, and Faculty George Mason University 15 Oct 1999 ... Professor Buchanan ... taught at the University of Tennessee, Florida State University, University of Virginia, UCLA, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where he established the Center for Study of Public Choice. He moved from the Center to George Mason University in 1983.
The James Buchanan Center for Political Economy
Short profile, includes photograph, and links to his working papers and vita
Economist James M. Buchanan, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economic Science, is the Center's advisory general director. He is best known for developing the 'public choice theory' of economics, which changed the way economists analyze economic and political decision making. Professor Buchanan's work opened the door for the examination of how politicians' self-interest and non-economic forces affect government economic policy. ... After graduating from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. in 1948, he held teaching positions at the University of Virginia, UCLA, and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.


James M. Buchanan | IDEAS/RePEc
Includes personal details, references to working papers, articles (over 170), book chapters and books, citations and statistical/ranking information


James Buchanan's Subjectivist Economics, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Apr 2013
Reviews Buchanan's writings in What Should Economists Do? (1979), a collection of several of his essays
James Buchanan, the Nobel Laurate ..., was well known for his pioneering work in Public Choice (the application of economic principles to politics), constitutional economics (as a device for limiting government power), and many other key subjects in political economy ... Less well known ... is his thinking on the nature of economics itself. Considering his deep subjectivism and methodological individualism, Buchanan may be seen at least as a fellow traveler of the Austrian school of economics, and I commend his writings in this area to anyone interested in the tradition of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Kirzner.
James M. Buchanan and the Rebirth of Political Economy, by Peter Boettke, Economics and its Discontents, 1998
Examines Buchanan's contributions in bursting the "romantic vision of political science," advancing subjectivism as a challenge to modern economics formalism and re-integrating moral philosophy into economics
... Buchanan has dissented from the mainstream trend in modern economic thinking throughout his career. He was a non-Keynesian when Keynesianism was en vogue; he pursued a subjectivist research programme when the majority of the profession lost sight of the subjectivist roots of the neoclassical revolution; he rejected the formal models of utility maximization and perfect competition when these models represented the tool-kit of any respectable economist; and he reintroduced into economic questions moral philosophical concerns at a time when economists were content to abandon the metaphysical to worship at the shrine of scientism.
UpdWilliam Harold Hutt (1899-1988): A Biographical Essay from an Austrian Perspective, by John B. Egger
Biographical and bibliographical essay
Economists and the Public was published in the same year as Keynes's General Theory, and many economists have wished that Hutt's thoughtful work had received the greater attention. James Buchanan, a Nobel Laureate for his own work in public choice who brought Hutt to the University of Virginia after Hutt's retirement in 1965, called it "one of Hutt's best works" ... [Hutt's] 1943 book Plan for Reconstruction has been lauded by James Buchanan ...


Interview with James Buchanan, The Region, Sep 1995
Topics include The Calculus of Consent, public choice theory, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve
I started out as a regular public finance economist. Once you start in that direction, you soon come to the question of how it is that taxes and expenditure decisions and budgets get made, so you're forced to think about the political process. One of my first pieces goes all the way back to 1949 and was nothing more than asking economists to think about their political models. What model of politics are you assuming before you start talking about what's good taxation? ... I was influenced by the Swedish economist Wicksell, who said if you want to improve politics, improve the rules, improve the structure.

Books Authored

The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, 1962
Partial contents: The Individualistic Postulate - Politics and the Economic Nexus - Individual Rationality in Social Choice - A Generalized Economic Theory of Constitutions - The Rule of Unanimity - Majority Rule, Game Theory, and Pareto Optimality
Related Topics: Democracy, Voting
The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution
    by Geoffrey Brennan, James M. Buchanan, 1980
Partial contents: Taxation in Constitutional Perspective - Natural Government - The Taxation of Commodities - Taxation through Time - Money Creation and Taxation - The Disposition of Public Revenues - The Domain of Politics - Toward Authentic Tax Reform
Related Topic: Taxation


A Conversation With Hayek and Buchanan, Part I, by James M. Buchanan, Friedrich Hayek, 1978
The Idea Channel, 52 minutes: "Nobel laureates Hayek and Buchanan engage in a spirited discussion of von Hayek's controversial work, 'Constitution of Liberty'"
Related Topic: Liberty
A Conversation With Hayek and Buchanan, Part II, by James M. Buchanan, Friedrich Hayek, 1978
The Idea Channel, 48 minutes: "Nobel laureates Hayek and Buchanan continue their discussion of von Hayek's controversial work, 'Constitution of Liberty'"
Related Topic: Liberty

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "James M. Buchanan" as of 5 Aug 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.