James M. Buchanan: Through an Austrian window
Mario J. Rizzo
Published online: 1 February 2014
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract This tribute to the late James Buchanan is an elaboration of themes he
developed on the importance of processes in real, experienced time, especially for
individual choice. The conventional way of modeling choice is to think of it as the
solution to a constrained maximization problem. If, however, we look at choice as a
process in time it is inseparable from the evolution and self-development of the
individual. Preferences emerge in the process of their becoming. The fundamental
characteristic of choice is thus the expression of autonomy and not the satisfaction of
given preferences. The implications of this for normative economics are explored.
JEL classification B21
The great economist James M. Buchanan died on January 9th, 2013 at the age of 93.
Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986. But even this does not
capture his greatness. There have been many Nobel prizes in economics since 1969, the
year they were initiated.
Many of these prize winners will be long forgotten and even
viewed with puzzlement by future generations, but this prize will stand out.
As an Austrian economist, I appreciate Buchanan for the enormous esteem in which
he held F.A. Hayek and the Austrian tradition in general. As a college student, I recall
the joy that I experienced when Buchanan’s Cost and Choice was first published in
1969 (Buchanan 1999). It seemed to me that, at last, an economist of international fame
was led to an appreciation of the subjectivist tradition, which had so long been derided
Rev Austrian Econ (2014) 27:135–145
There have been 44 prizes to 71 Laureates as of June, 2013.
The author is indebted to Simon Bilo for his very valuable assistance. Remaining errors or infelicities of
expression are the author’s responsibility.
M. J. Rizzo (*)
Department of Economics, New York University, New York, NY 10012, USA