Nobel Laureate and Longtime George Mason University Economics Professor James M. Buchanan Dies at 93

The founding father of the Virginia School of Political Economy and Modern Public Choice Theory

Fairfax, Va.—George Mason University is deeply saddened to announce the death of James M. Buchanan, distinguished professor emeritus of economics and advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice. Buchanan died yesterday in Blacksburg, Virginia, after a brief illness. He was 93.

“I know the entire university community joins me in mourning the loss of Dr. James M. Buchanan,” said Mason President Ángel Cabrera. “As Mason’s—and Virginia’s—first Nobel laureate for economics in 1986, Professor Buchanan was transformational, not only for our Department of Economics, but for putting our young university on the national and international map.”

Buchanan received his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1948 and subsequently taught at the University of Tennessee; Florida State University; the University of Virginia; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), where he established the Center for Study of Public Choice. He moved the center to Mason in 1983.

Professor James Buchanan receives his Nobel Prize from His Majesty King Carl Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall.Copyright © Pressens Bild ABPhoto: Börje Thuresson

Professor James M. Buchanan receives the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences from His Majesty King Carl Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall in 1986. Copyright © Pressens Bild AB Photo: Börje Thuresson

In December 1986, Buchanan received the 1986 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for his “development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making [or Public Choice Theory].”

“In moving to Mason in the early 1980s, James Buchanan and his colleagues at the Center for Study of Public Choice provided the scholarly foundation upon which Mason economics has been built,” said Daniel Houser, chair of Mason’s Department of Economics and director of its Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science. “He was exceptional in his academic excellence. He will be deeply missed.”

Awarded four honorary doctoral degrees from universities worldwide, and distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association, Buchanan wrote or co-wrote more than one dozen books and hundreds of articles in the areas of public finance, public choice, constitutional economics and economic philosophy. He is best known for such works as “Fiscal Theory and Political Economy,” “The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy,” “Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan,” “Democracy in Deficit,” “The Power to Tax,” and “The Reason of Rules.”

The university is planning a memorial service for Dr. Buchanan later this year.

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