James M. Buchanan: An appreciation
Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr.
Published online: 20 February 2014
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract James M. Buchanan co-founded the field of Public Choice. He was influ-
enced by Austrian economics, and in turn influenced Austrian economics. In particular,
he advanced the understanding of subjectivist cost theory. His individualist approach to
public policy making has been adopted by many Austrian economists. With Richard
Wagner, he analyzed the politics of Keynesian economics. They explained why
Keynesianism in practice led to a larger government, permanent deficits and inflation-
ary monetary policy.
Keywords Public choice
JEL Classification B25
Superlatives are quickly exhausted, and memories multiplied when it comes to an
appreciation of James M. Buchanan. He was a truly great economist, of which his
Nobel Prize was a recognition. He had a great influence on Austrian economics and
individual Austrian economists. I am one who was heavily influenced by him. He was a
visiting professor of economics at UCLA in 1968–69 at a time of troubles on campus, a
state of affairs that did not agree with him. I started graduate school there in the Fall of
1969, after he had left.
But his influence was still present. As I recall, he came back to
UCLA to present a paper at least once.
Our paths intersected far more often after the award of the Nobel Prize to F. A.
Hayek in 1974. We met and conversed at meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, various
conferences on Austrian economics, Liberty Fund conferences, and other events.
I taught at Iowa State University from 1974 to 78, and arranged to have Jim come
out there for a visit of multiple presentations and meetings. On the drive from Des
Rev Austrian Econ (2014) 27:129–134
Coincidentally, Hayek was a visiting professor of philosophy in 1969 at UCLA and their tenures likely
The author thanks Maralene Martin for her comments.
G. P. O’Driscoll Jr. (*)
Cato Institute, 1000Massacusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA