James M. Buchanan

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James M. Buchanan (2010)

James McGill Buchanan Jr. (born October 3, 1919 in Murfreesboro , Tennessee , † January 9, 2013 in Blacksburg , Virginia ) was an American economist. His focus was on the development of an economic theory of the state, for his work on economic and political decision-making he received the 1986 Prize for Economics from the Swedish Reichsbank in memory of Alfred Nobel . He was considered one of the pioneers of the New Political Economy .

life and work

James M. Buchanan's grandfather was John P. Buchanan (1847–1930), Governor of Tennessee from 1891 to 1893 . Nevertheless, Buchanan grew up in simple circumstances on a farm. But the family agreed that he should not become a farmer, but should be trained as well as possible. He studied politics at the state universities of Tennessee. When he was called up for military service in 1941, he claims to have developed the ambition to become a naval officer and experienced social injustice during his training: The fact that graduates from elite universities were preferred for promotions made him so outraged that he said it was his anyway left-wing political attitudes (from which he later distanced himself) was radicalized. After the war he went to the University of Chicago and studied economics with Frank Knight and Milton Friedman . In 1948 he received his Ph.D. Buchanan taught political economy at a number of US universities for a few years each: University of Tennessee , Florida State University , University of Virginia , University of California at Los Angeles , then 1969-1983 at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and finally from 1983 at George Mason University .

Buchanan's work, especially on Public Choice Theory , is interdisciplinary and has an impact on the social sciences . Among other things, it was his goal to restore the socio-political importance of economics (political economics). So he used it in his 1975 book Limits of Liberty. Between Anarchy and Leviathan, among other things, some models and processes of political philosophy to find a theoretical basis for his economic liberalism . Following on from Thomas Hobbes ' doctrine of contract , he tried to anchor the legal system , the legal protection state, and the benefit state in a contractual unification of rational and realistic individuals. Any conflict between “freedom”, ie the absolutely free power of the individual to dispose of his property, and democracy should be resolved in favor of freedom.

Buchanan's work can be characterized by the following central features:

  • Strict distinction between the selection of rules and decisions about actions under rules
  • Normative and methodological individualism ( homo-economicus model)
  • Interest-based concept of politics: Politics is not an enterprise based on truth, but deals with the exchange process in the face of diverging interests
  • Proposals for change have always the status quo to orient
  • An evaluation of social results is only possible by evaluating the relevant decision-making rules ("that which emerges from the interaction process is, quite simply, that which emerges. It is inappropriate to classify any outcome or end-state as better than another" (2001, P. 270).)
  • The decisive evaluation criterion is the consensus of those affected with regard to the decision-making process, not the results that emerge from these processes.

A well-known conclusion of the public choice theory is in particular that politicians gear their actions more towards their re-election or the highest possible tax revenue than towards the common good. Buchanan's public choice theory therefore suggests that the scope of action of political decision-makers with regard to national debt should be limited by appropriate bans. In particular, the regulations on the debt brake follow from this theory. Buchanan advocated making the desired political changes as invisible as possible; the razing of the social security systems (welfare state) should not be announced directly, but rather it should be disguised as reforms to stabilize the systems.

Buchanan taught for most of his life in Virginia, at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and at George Mason University at Fairfax . His work at George Mason University received financial support from the owners of Koch Industries . In an obituary for Buchanan, the New York Times noted that he was a major influence on conservative views on economic issues. It was only after his death that the historian Nancy MacLean discovered the correspondence with Charles G. Koch in the archive on the campus of George Mason University. MacLean evaluated the findings in her book Democracy in Chains , published in 2017 . Based on the research, she accused Charles G. Koch and Buchanan of developing a covert plan to reorganize the political structure of the USA in favor of the small minority of the super-rich and to the detriment of the majority of the population, and of initiating its implementation. The book received some attention and the conclusions were controversial (and in different political directions, either in favor or against).

He was a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and, since 1976, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , and honorary president of the Walter Eucken Institute . In 1980 he was invited by the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and advised them on the formulation of their constitution.

He was also a member of the Union Mundial pro Interlingua , the world union of the planned language Interlingua .

See also


Primary literature

  • James M. Buchanan: The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan - Volume 17 - Moral Science and Moral Order . Indianapolis, 2001.
    • total of 20 volumes: Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • James M. Buchanan: Constitutional Economics . Cambridge, 1991.
  • James M. Buchanan: Political Economy as Constitutional Theory . Zurich, 1990.
  • James M. Buchanan: Liberty, Market and State: Political Economy in the 1980s . New York, 1986.
  • James M. Buchanan: The Reason of Rules - Constitutional Political Economy . Indianapolis, 1985, 2000.
  • James M. Buchanan: What Should Economists Do? . Indianapolis, 1979.
  • James M. Buchanan: The Constitution of Liberty . In: Otto Molden: To the limits of freedom . Vienna [u. a.], 1977.
  • James M. Buchanan: The Limits of Liberty. Between Anarchy and Leviathan . Chicago [u. a.], 1975, 1987.
  • James M. Buchanan, Gordon Tullock : The Calculus of Consent - Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy . Ann Arbor, 1962, 1989.

Secondary literature

  • Nancy MacLean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America . London, 2017. ISBN 978-1-101-98098-9 .
  • Thomas Petersen: Individual Freedom and General Will: Buchanan's Political Economy and Political Philosophy . Tübingen, 1996.
  • Ingo Pies, Martin Leschke: James Buchanan's constitutional economics . Tübingen, 1996.
  • Wolfgang Kersting: The political philosophy of the social contract . Darmstadt, 1994.

Web links

Commons : James M. Buchanan  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. James M. Buchanan, Nobel Prize-Winning Economist, Dies at 93
  2. Nobel winner and MTSU alumnus James M. Buchanan this
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. a b c d e George Monbiot: A despot in disguise: one man's mission to rip up democracy - George Monbiot. In: theguardian.com. July 19, 2017, accessed July 20, 2017 .
  6. Spiegel 3/2013, obituary to James Buchanan, p. 138
  7. ^ Robert D. Mc Fadden: James M. Buchanan, Economic Scholar, Dies at 93. In: nytimes.com. January 9, 2013, accessed July 20, 2017 .
  8. ^ The Right's War Against Liberal Democracy , The New Republic, June 27, 2017
  9. Historian alleges coordinated criticism of her latest book, which is critical of radical right. In: Inside Higher Ed. July 12, 2017, accessed July 24, 2017 .
  10. ^ A New History of the Right Has Become an Intellectual Flashpoint , The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 19, 2017
  11. Nancy MacLean Responds to Her Critics , The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 19, 2017
  12. Union Mundial pro Interlingua (Interlingua, accessed October 5, 2014)