Very sad news

by on January 9, 2013 at 8:21 am in Economics | Permalink

James M. Buchanan has passed away.  I saw him not too long ago, and can confirm he was still very sharp well into his nineties.

gofx January 9, 2013 at 8:49 am

What an amazingly productive and insightful man. I hope he was receiving all the social security and medicare benefits due him based on the taxes he was forced to pay. Its not like he was a crazed environmentalist selling his tv channel to an oil producing country…….

Michael G Heller January 10, 2013 at 4:30 am

Jeez this blog site has gone downhill. I don’t know why intelligent guys like Rizzo and Rosser bother. Brad DeLong would come here only *after* he’d been insulted.

Check out the big brains 2 years ago almost to the day —

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/01/public-choice.html

Careless January 10, 2013 at 10:52 am

What an odd comment. What insult here brought DeLong, btw?

Ray Lopez January 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum. “tsaxpayer” says PA. Tsk, tsk. Well I did lern something from your post, via Google: “Although trained as a lawyer, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF LAW GORDON TULLOCK never held a law school appointment before coming to George Mason University’s School of Law. In addition, while he is an intellectual giant in the fields of economics and public choice, he does not have a degree in economics. Professor Tullock attended law school at the University of Chicago … Professor Tullock began postdoctoral work at the University of Virginia in 1958 and taught at that school’s Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy from 1962 to 1967. The Calculus of Consent (1962), cowritten with George Mason University’s James Buchanan, is a founding text of the public choice movement. With Buchanan, Professor Tullock moved to Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1968 to 1983 and to George Mason from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, he left George Mason for the University of Arizona.” I didn’t know that they were joined at the hip like that.

Barkley Rosser January 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Ray,

Reportedly the reason that Tullock left Mason in 1987 was due to his unhappiness at not co-receiving the Swedish Bank prize when Buchanan did in 1986. Later Tullock returned to GMU, when he formally joined the law school as well as the econ department. It is my understanding that whatever differences they had over 1986 were resolved between them.

prior_approval January 10, 2013 at 4:20 am

Man, I see that talking about GMU itself is a good way to have comments deleted – well, it isn’t as if self-censorship wasn’t something we all practiced back in those halycon days.

prior_approval January 10, 2013 at 4:23 am

The info flow is getting more interesting – ham handed mass deletions are slowly being replaced with slightly more context sensitive deletions. Though admittedly, a bit of the text needs to be corrected, otherwise, it remains apparent that deletions now occur on a regular basis here.

Rich Berger January 9, 2013 at 8:59 am

Too bad, but he had a long and productive life. We should all be so fortunate.

Bill January 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

You might want to read more on Buchanan’s role in “starve the beast” (tax cuts constraining future spending) here at p. 10 and 11 in an article on the origins of starve the beast by Bruce Bartlett: http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_12_01_01_bartlett.pdf

Bill January 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

From the article cited above at 10-11:

“Passage of California’s Proposition 13 seems to have influenced Buchanan’s
thinking about other ways of constraining the growth of government besides a balanced-
budget requirement. In a series of papers culminating in his 1980 book with
Jeffrey Brennan, The Power to Tax, Buchanan endorsed Proposition 13–style tax cuts
unaccompanied by spending cuts as an appropriate way to restrain the growth of
government (Buchanan 1976; Brennan and Buchanan 1977, 1979).8 Subsequent
research is mixed on whether tax-limitation initiatives such as Proposition 13 succeeded
in the long run in holding down government spending (Abrams and Dougan
1986; Sherwood-Call 1987; Matsusaka 1995). However, it is important that at a
critical time in the late 1970s, an economist well known for his commitment to a
balanced-budget rule also endorsed Proposition 13–style tax cuts as a way of forcing
action to restrain the growth of government. Buchanan’s endorsement was an important
step in making the starve-the-beast theory an idea to be taken seriously, not
simply a populist slogan.

In the 1980s, public-choice theory developed the idea that a conservative government might intentionally increase the national debt through tax cuts in order tobind the hands of a subsequent liberal government (Persson and Svensson 1989;
Alesina and Tabellini 1990; Pettersson-Lidbom 2001). More of the budget would
have to be used for interest payments, thereby precluding a liberal government from
spending as much as it would like on consumption.”

Ed Lopez January 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

His deepest contribution was to re-orient economics as the science of exchange rather than of allocation. See his 1963 Southern Economic Association presidential address, “What Should Economists Do?” which was later expanded into a book of the same title. He will surely be missed. I saw him in July at his farm, and when he welcomed me into the house his first words were to tell me about a paper he was working on. I saw him again in October at a small conference over a long weekend. He was sharp and contributed deeply to discussion. It’s the day the econ died.

Rahul January 10, 2013 at 12:25 am

The Wikipedia article on his work is very minimalistic; I wonder why? There’s a small section on his “Approach to economic analysis” but not much meat.

As compared to other Econ. Nobel’s was Buchnan under-appreciated?”

Surath Giri January 9, 2013 at 9:34 am

Very sad news. He lived a long and productive life.Happy for that!
I had recently made a video on public choice theory with a case study from Nepal.
I think it is going to be my tribute for him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDeQWO-J99k

Carlos Scartascini January 9, 2013 at 9:57 am

I have only words of gratitude for Jim. I will never forget his dedication and hard work -the best possible example for aspiring academics. He will be missed by all. This was a nice tribute for his 80th birthday, which summarizes his life and work: http://publicchoice.info/Buchanan/index.htm

Donald Pretari January 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm

A Favorite of mine, and possibly one of the last students of the Old Chicago School. Very Sad News. His recent Summer Lectures were superb.

Brad DeLong January 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Overrated.

Ron Warren January 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

This is a gratuitous and ill-informed comment about Buchanan, who will be be well-remembered for many years by former colleagues and students and among those who are interested in the interplay between economics and politics.

Donald Pretari January 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I think Brad was referring to me.

Rich Berger January 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

That was a charitable interpretation. Given the structure of the comments, I believe you are too kind.

DWM January 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I think otherwise. DeLong is despicable.

Adam C. Smith January 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm

A shameful comment. Given that Tyler and Alex are both at GMU, this is a natural forum for those who knew, were inspired, or otherwise impacted by James Buchanan’s life and works to express their memories and grieve together. To besmirch his academic legacy in an off-handed way has as little place in this discussion as the idiots who picket funerals for political reasons. I suppose the blogosphere has insulated you from human decency. How embarrassing.

Rahul January 10, 2013 at 12:17 am

Are we sure this was even the real Brad? If that was a troll he was pretty successful.

Ray Lopez January 10, 2013 at 6:52 am

It might be the real DeLong, and maybe he was just being provocative and/or posting his honest opinion, after all, it’s not like this is a formal wake for the deceased. The reason I say that: I’ve in the past posted a joke post as “Paul Krugman” and it stayed up (since I guess it looked like a joke post), then I tried it again, this time I guess it was not as funny, and TC took it down, later saying it was by a fake Paul Krugman. So to the extent TC monitors these comments, he will delete a comment that is posted by somebody not having an IP address close to the real famous person (TC tracks IP addresses it seems, though I guess if you’re a diehard troll you can use a proxy server close to the famous person’s real geographic location and try and fool him).

regular January 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Bead DeLong, “Mourning the Death of James Buchanan”
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/01/mourning-the-death-of-james-buchanan.html

regular January 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Sorry, misstyped. Here is Brad DeLong’s comment.

Brian Donohue January 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Raters gonna rate.

PasserBy January 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm

No, no, don’t be so hard on yourself, Brad. We were not talking about you.

PS: Seriously? You are a even more vile person than I thought.

John Pertz January 9, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Good god man.

FoGuckYourself January 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

In five years when your fat deadwood ass strokes out with one hand buried in a bag of Fritos and a crusty ring of day old pizza sauce surrounding your lips how many people do you think will give a s***?

no offense legit question bro

Natalia January 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Shame on you Brad. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Ed Lopez January 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm

That’s the comment of one who is “Afraid to be Free” http://www.scribd.com/doc/82902506/Afraid-to-Be-Free-Buchanan

Ritwik January 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm

If only the internet Austrians used Buchanan as the beacon of their fiscal conservatism, they’d be on far surer grounds.

On a mildly related note, can you perhaps cover in a post who you’d consider the greatest political economists of the post-Buchanan/Schelling era, say between 1975 to 2005? Olson? Sen? McCloskey? Maybe even Sachs? Hard for anyone to be much of a generalist these days but would like to know your views on who managed.

W. Peden January 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

A good question, Ritwik. I’d say Olson. I love McCloskey’s work, but I think her best work is historical, with interesting political implications deriving from it rather than within it.

Baphomet January 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

The New York Times obituary claims that Buchanan was “an austere man with a severe aspect that many students found intimidating.” In reality he was a very sweet, though somewhat shy, guy. Also, he loved it when students disagreed with him, if they could provide good reasons for doing so. Although I cannot honestly say that any particular idea of his ever struck me as very compelling, he had an enthusiasm about intellectual pursuits in general that was an enormous influence on me.

DWM January 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

The NYT could hardly have been more wrong (as usual) Gordon was intimidating to many students, but not Jim.

John January 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I don’t think anyone who’s seen Buchanan smile — and I’m sure all his students have — could ever describe him as “austere”.

Barkley Rosser January 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

prior approval,

I would like to say that at this moment of the death of James Buchanan it is singularly inappropriate to bring up the fact that Gordon Tullock deserves the prize as well. He may well still get it for rent seeking, probably with some other co-recipients. That he did not share it with Buchanan may have been wrong, but it certainly was not due to any action on the part of the late Professor Buchanan.

I will note that the scuttlebutt I have long heard from my contacts in Sweden is that for whatever reason Tullock was not on the list, but that the most likely co-recipient was Richard Musgrave, with whom Buchanan often publicly debated regarding the proper nature of public economics more broadly defined. That this term came into wide usage reflects this debate, as Musgrave was a main formulater of the previously dominant “public finance,” which when combined with the Buchanan-Tullock “public choice,” became modern “public economics.” i note that Musgrave probably deserved to receive the prize as well, but is no longer among the living.

prior_approval January 10, 2013 at 4:17 am

I’m not one who believes either of them deserve the Riksbank prize, just that Tullock certainly felt his work did not receive proper credit.

And interestingly, in the Buchanan wikipedia entry, the only two mentions of Tullock at all are one credit for their co-authored book, and a wiki link to Tullock in the see also category. Almost as if someone thought their collaboration was minimal, a thought buttressed by the awarding of the Rikbank prize to just one of them.

We used to chat about it back in the day, it being just one of several interesting things we knew would need to be managed – after all, GMU devoted lots of resources to import its (then only in the running) Riksbank prize winner, and we knew that our work would include keeping him happy. After all, without its Riksbank prize winner, most people would have dismissed the GMU econ dept as just another commuter school collection of academics unable to get a job at a better institution – with him, well, an entirely different story, isn’t it?

Mario Rizzo January 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

On the “Brad DeLong” remark above. Are we sure it is really Brad DeLong and not someone paying games?

Barkley Rosser January 10, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Mario,
It now looks almost for sure that the “DeLong” above was not the real one, even though the real one trashed Milton Friedman after his death. On his blog, Brad has posted very flattering remarks about Buchanan, declariing that his most important innovations in economics deserving of the Nobel Prize and that they would not have been done without him, even as Brad noted his own political disagreements with Buck.

Arthur January 9, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Someone who knows DeLong needs to write to him and clear this up one way or the other. For the sake of his reputation. Also, if it’s fake, this site needs to fix it so this cannot occur.

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