Commissioned Editorial Commentary

Public Choice

, Volume 153, Issue 1, pp 1-7

First online:

Remembering Bill Niskanen: pursuing economics as a public science in the service of liberty

  • Richard E. WagnerAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, 3G4, George Mason University Email author 


This short essay is a memorial piece about William A. Niskanen (13 March 1933–26 October 2011). The essay starts with his time at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s, and gives most attention to his contributions to public choice. Especial attention is paid to his Bureaucracy and Representative Government, which opened vast territory for subsequent analytical exploration. A good deal of attention is also paid to his Autocratic, Democratic, and Optimal Government because this work both conveys his interest in comparative constitutional analysis and is useful for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of his approach to this material.


William Niskanen Bureaucracy Constitutional economics Welfare economics Public choice Economics as public science