Nobel laureate James Buchanan passed away this week. His influence on economics was profound. His former student Steve Horwitz ably describes Buchanan’s legacy:
James Buchanan, the Nobel Prize winning economist and my former professor, has died at 93. There is much that one can say about him, not the least of which is that he was still intellectually sharp and active into his 90s. In short: he changed the face of economics and politics and advanced the cause of liberty as much as anyone in the second half of the 20th century.
Buchanan’s work changed political economy in fundamental ways. Thanks to him and his colleagues, three things are true: No one who wishes to talk responsibly about politics can be ignorant of public choice theory. No one should ever invoke the language of market failure (including externalities) without having digested his work on government failure. And people who run around talking about the constitution better be able to understand something of his contributions to constitutional political economy….
Well said, and impossible to overstate, in particular: Buchanan offered the powerful antidote to the self-serving, destructive, and false view of public actions as the conduct of angels, altruistically ‘serving’ the public.
We’ve many reasons to be fortunate for Buchanan’s work, this among them.