Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 111: James M. Buchanan (1919–2013)
James M. Buchanan is one of the main founders of public choice theory, the leading head of the so-called Virginia School of Political Economy and principal originator of the research programme of constitutional economics. Buchanan was born on 3 October 1919 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He earned a BA from Middle Tennessee Teachers College in 1940, and an MSc from the University of Tennessee in 1941. After serving in the United States Navy from 1941 to 1945 he entered the economics doctoral programme at the University of Chicago and received his PhD in 1948. From 1948 to 1951 he taught at the University of Tennessee and from 1951 to 1956 at Florida State University. From 1956 on – except for a brief interlude at the University of California in Los Angeles (1968–69) – he held appointments at state universities in Virginia, at the University of Virginia from 1956 to1968, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University from 1969 to 1983, and at George Mason University from 1983 until his retirement in 1999. In 1986 he was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for his eminent role as paradigm builder in the fields of public choice and constitutional economics. What is most remarkable about Buchanan’s work is the coherence and continuity of the research programme that he has pursued throughout his life, the basic contours of which are already visible in his first major paper “The pure theory of government finance” (1949). Starting as a public...
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