James Buchanan was a fountainhead of ideas, as his twenty volume collected works demonstrate. But there is another side to Buchanan’s contributions that is less apparent. Buchanan was more than a scholar, more than an idea man. He was also an intellectual entrepreneur who led a worldwide movement. We like to believe that good ideas defeat bad ideas, that the cream rises to the top, that truth wins out in the end, but as John Stuart Mill (1859) stated, “Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for error.” Indeed, error may attract more zealots, since error can bend itself to flatter, and the truth does not bend.
Buchanan understood right from the beginning that for good ideas to win requires a movement, and a movement is not built on ideas alone, but also on students, on conferences, on outreach, on media, and on money.
That is the opening to a I talk I gave at the 2013 memorial, “James M. Buchanan: A Celebration of Achievement,” just now published.