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James Buchanan, Nobel Laureate, 1919-2013


James Buchanan has just died at the age of 93. I knew him, though not well, through the Mont Pelerin Society which he attended for many years.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on Public Choice Theory.  Before that time people behaved as though politicians and civil servants were endowed with dispassionate righteousness to correct “failings” in the market economy.  Buchanan showed that they maximized their advantage in the same way that business people did (though some would say more harmfully).

The Adam Smith Institute was founded to seek a creative counterpart to the Public Choice critique, and to devise policies that would steer round the self-interest of legislators and administrators. One commentator has said of his importance:

“As a testament to his lasting contribution, the current graduate student in economics does not think twice about modelling the state as consisting of rational, self-interested and utility-maximizing agents. It’s now habit.”

Farewell, James, and well done.


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