James M. Buchanan, Jr.

  • Nobel Laureate, Key Founder of the Public Choice School of Economics

James M. Buchanan, Jr. dedicated his life's work to the advancement of what we know as public choice or the Virginia school of political economy. An exemplary and innovative scholar in his field, Buchanan received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1986 while he was a professor of economics at George Mason University. Among his notable publications are The Calculus of Consent (1962, with Gordon Tullock), Democracy in Deficity (1977, with Richard Wagner), and What Should Economists Do? (1979). Buchanan and his collaborators spearheaded a movement in economics against the orthodoxy that continues with Public Choice scholars today.

Buchanan was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1919. He studied at Middle Tennessee State Teachers College (now Middle Tennessee State University) and the University of Tennessee. He received his PhD under the renowned economist Frank Knight at the Unversity of Chicago, which had much influence on his later work. Buchanan taught at The University of Virginia, UCLA, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he first developed the Center for Study of Public Choice. In 1983, he moved the center to George Mason University where it would eventually merge with the Center for the Study of Market Processes and - even later - become The Mercatus Center.

Buchanan died in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2013.