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Dr. James M. Buchanan

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James McGill Buchanan

James McGill Buchanan, Nobel prize-winning economist, died Wednesday, January 9, 2013, in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was 93.

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and a Rutherford County, Tennessee, native, received the 1986 Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his leadership in developing the public choice theory of economics. Dr. Buchanan also received the National Humanities Medal in 2006.

Of receiving the prestigious Nobel award, Dr. Buchanan once wrote: "If Jim Buchanan can get a Nobel Prize, anyone can. Recognition and acceptance of this simple truth are very important." A stridently independent thinker, Dr. Buchanan earned the Nobel for "his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making." That this would lead, on the one hand, to the development of general political theory in constitutional political economy and, on the other, to public choice theory, which brings the tools of economic analysis to the study of public decision-making. His book, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, which he co-authored with Gordon Tullock, is considered a classic work on public choice theory.

After he was awarded the Nobel prize, Dr. Buchanan continued to write and lecture on his interests around the world into his 94th year. He lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, and was married to the late Anne Bakke Buchanan, who died in 2005.

In 2007, Dr. Buchanan retired from his position as Advisory General Director, Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, having previously achieved emeritus status in 1999 as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics from George Mason University and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics and Philosophy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia. Professor Buchanan received his B.A. from Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in 1940; his M.S. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1941; and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1948.

The following is a short list of his most well-known major works: The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan (20 vols., 1999-2002, 2004)—most of the following titles are also published in the Collected Works— Better than Plowing: And Other Personal Essays (1992); The Economics and the Ethics of Constitutional Order (1991); Liberty, Market and State: Political Economy in the 1980s (1986); The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy (with Geoffrey Brennan, 1985); The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution (with Geoffrey Brennan, 1980); Freedom in Constitutional Contract: Perspectives of a Political Economist (1978); Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes (with Richard E. Wagner, 1977); The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan (1975); The Calculus of Consent (with Gordon Tullock, 1962). The latest additions to his long list of distinguished publications are Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2005) and Economics from the Outside In: Better than Plowing and Beyond (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007.)

The grandson of Tennessee Governor John P. Buchanan, James McGill Buchanan, Jr., was born on October 3, 1919, and grew up on a Depression-era farm in the Gum community of Rutherford County just outside Murfreesboro, TN. He attended Buchanan School, which was named as such because it was built on land once part of the Buchanan family farm.

In his book of personal essays, Better Than Plowing, the down-to-earth Buchanan points out that his family's humble roots instilled within him a strong work ethic—he earned money for college books and fees by milking cows—that set the stage for his distinguished career.

Buchanan graduated in 1940 from what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College with majors in mathematics, English literature, and social science. He went on to a graduate fellowship at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an economics fellowship at Columbia University.

Duty to country then called during World War II, with Buchanan entering officer training in the U.S. Navy ROTC program, eventually serving on the staff of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz in Hawaii. Following his Naval service in the Pacific, Buchanan earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago. The prolific scholar and author would serve later as the advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he also served as a distinguished professor emeritus.

Buchanan is survived by two sisters, Lila Graue of Fayetteville, Arkansas and Elizabeth Bradley of Pearland, Texas; as well as three nephews, Doug Graue, Jim Whorley and Jeff Whorley.

Announcements regarding memorial services will be made at a later date.

Charitable contributions in Dr. Buchanan's memory may be made to either the Center for Study of Public Choice FoundationBuchanan House Fund, Center for Study of Public Choice, Buchanan House MSN 1E6, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030 or the MTSU FoundationDr. James Buchanan Fund, Wood-Stegall Center, P.O. Box 109 Murfreesboro, TN 39132.

Published in The Daily News Journal on Jan. 20, 2013
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