February, 2019

Who Was James M. Buchanan and Why Is He Significant?

  • Richard Wagner

    Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
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This essay introduces a collection of 49 essays that exemplify the breadth and the depth of James M. Buchanan’s (1919–2013) contributions to economics in the post-war period. Buchanan started his career in 1948 as someone who wanted to provide a different scholarly framework for a theory of public finance and managed to do so. What resulted was a scholarly output that was published in 20 volumes in 2002, to which he continued to add until his death. The essays in this volume reflect the breadth and depth of Buchanan’s contributions to political economy and social philosophy. While these essays are written by people who admired and learned from Buchanan’s work, these are not essays in hagiography. They explore various questions and topics that interested Buchanan. A good number of these explorations have critical overtones, but most significantly they build upon lines of inquiry that animated Buchanan’s scholarly curiosity.