Thursday, January 10, 2013

James Buchanan, RIP

I was sad to learn yesterday that Nobel laureate economist James Buchanan, co-founder with Gordon Tullock of the "public choice" sub-field of economics, has passed on.

Reading Buchanan and Tullock's book The Calculus of Consent in my undergraduate days had a big effect on my thinking about constitutions, what one might call the mechanism design of government. It remains well worth reading today. I also enjoyed Buchanan's memoir Better than Plowing.

Back in my Maryland days, I drove down to Virginia and gave a seminar at George Mason. The seminar took place in an old house that had been converted essentially into a shrine to James Buchanan (advice: win your Nobel at a school where you are the only one). He was kind enough to show up and ask questions at the seminar even though it was a paper on college quality and thus pretty far from his own interests.

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