The Soul of Classical Political Economy

James M. Buchanan from the Archives

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Published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in the Advanced Studies in Political Economy series.

James M. Buchanan, a prominent political economist of the 20th century and a Nobel laureate in economics, was a founding thinker of the public choice tradition and was instrumental in the reintroduction of politics into economic analysis. He was also an intellectual entrepreneur who developed new and innovative centers for research, graduate programs, and outlets for academic publication. Having taught at a variety of institutions, including the University of Tennessee, Florida State University, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech, he moved the Center for Study of Public Choice to George Mason University in 1983, where he remained for the rest of his academic career. After his passing in 2013, the Special Collections Research Center for the Mason University Libraries began to compile a formal archive, the James M. Buchanan Papers, documenting Buchanan’s contributions to social science and his intellectual legacy.

This volume, The Soul of Classical Political Economy: James M. Buchanan from the Archives, edited by Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano, provides a unique window into not only the man, the scholar, and the teacher, but also the fields of public choice and public economics that Buchanan advanced over his productive and esteemed career. The sections in this volume correspond to important themes for understanding Buchanan’s views on political economy as a social philosophy. The editors illustrate Buchanan’s views by using archival material—most of it original and previously unpublished—and offering context as a guide through the evolution of Buchanan’s expansive scholarship that took place over roughly seven decades and spanned the fields of philosophy, politics, and economics. This volume is essential reading for anyone interested in Buchanan’s work, in public choice theory, and in the continuing study of political economy.

“Indisputably, Buchanan is a seminal figure in political economics and public choice theory, and his papers hold a sizable cache of unexplored materials. The tip of this archival iceberg is reflected in what the editors chose to include as Buchanan’s pivotal works.”
Lynn Eaton and John G. Zenelis



Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Section 1: Ethics, Fiscal Justice, and Public Economics

Chapter 1.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 1.1: A Note on the Pure Theory of Public Expenditure
James M. Buchanan

Section 2: Subjectivist Economics

Chapter 2.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 2.1: The London Theory of Opportunity Cost
James M. Buchanan

Section 3: Politics and Morals

Chapter 3.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 3.1: A Governable Country?
James M. Buchanan

Section 4: The Organization of Scientific Activity

Chapter 4.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 4.1: The Thomas Jefferson Center for Studies in Political Economy
James M. Buchanan

Chapter 4.2: A Letter from Frank A. Geldard

Chapter 4.3:  We Must Dare to Be Different
James M. Buchanan

Chapter 4.4: The Dishwater of Orthodoxies
James M. Buchanan

Section 5: The Virginia Lectures in Political Economy

Chapter 5.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 5.1: The “Virginia School” and Public Choice
Dennis C. Mueller

Chapter 5.2: Creating the “Virginia School”: Charlottesville as an Academic Environment in the 1960s
William Breit

Chapter 5.3: Getting More with Less, with a Notable Exception
Dwight R. Lee

Chapter 5.4: Ethics in the History and Doctrine of the Virginia School
Leland Yeager

Chapter 5.5: Winston Bush’s Contribution to Public Choice: Anarchy, Politics, and Population
Robert J. Mackay

Chapter 5.6: The Tale of the Slave Owner: Reflections on the Political Economy of Communist Reform
Geoffrey Brennan

Chapter 5.7: Uncommon Common Sense vs. Conventional Wisdom: The Virginia School of Economics
Charles J. Goetz

Chapter 5.8: On the Political Economy of the Transformation of Political and Economic Regimes
Peter Bernholz

Chapter 5.9: Why Is Economic Performance Even Worse after Communism Is Abandoned?
Mancur Olson

Chapter 5.10: Virginia Virtue—Virginia Vice
Hartmut Kliemt

Chapter 5.11: The Public Choice Approach to International Economic Relations
Thomas D. Willett

Chapter 5.12: The Economics of Welfare Reform
Edgar K. Browning

Chapter 5.13: The Nature of Time in Economics
Richard B. McKenzie

Chapter 5.14: Will Johnny Read Next Year?
Eugenia F. Toma

Chapter 5.15: Economics and the Medieval Church
Robert D. Tollison

Section 6: The Knightian Conversation

Chapter 6.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 6.1: Democracy: Limited or Unlimited
James M. Buchanan

Chapter 6.2: Federalism and Individual Sovereignty
James M. Buchanan

Section 7: Postcrisis Economics

Chapter 7.0: Introduction
Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano

Chapter 7.1: Chicago School Thinking: Old and New
James M. Buchanan

Chapter 7.2: Ideology or Error: Economists and the Great Recession
James M. Buchanan

Peter J. Boettke and Alain Marciano