A Creative Theorist in His Workshop: James M. Buchanan as a Positive Economist

  • William F. Shughart
  • Robert D. Tollison
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


As one of our friends once said, James M. Buchanan is a whole university in and of himself, or at least an economics department, a philosophy department, and a political science department combined in one person. Another way of putting this is to recognize that Buchanan has contributed to numerous literatures inside and outside of economics, so that characterizing his work or his methodological approach in general terms can be a little difficult at times. Depending on the time and the particular issue he is pursuing, Buchanan appears here and there in a variety of methodological modes. It is fair to say, however, that in the main Buchanan has worked as a normative economist — he has tried to use economic theory to increase the understanding of complex behavioral interactions, so as to enhance general agreement on mutually beneficial social arrangements. He is not a welfare economist or a utilitarian in the sense that he offers any prospects of ascertaining what is “best” for everyone, distinct from their own evaluations. Rather, he is a contractarian who seeks to find the ways and means by which people might cooperatively better themselves. This, at least, is the aspect of his work that Buchanan emphasizes, and that other scholars have stressed as well.


Public Good Public Choice Vote Rule Rent Seek Positive Economic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. Shughart
  • Robert D. Tollison

There are no affiliations available

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