James M. Buchanan, the U.S. economist who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for applying the principles of economic self-interest to understand why politicians do what they do, has died. He was 93.
He died today, according to Alex Tabarrok, director of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where Buchanan was a distinguished professor emeritus of economics. The cause wasn’t immediately available.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Buchanan the Nobel in economics “for his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.”
Buchanan was a pioneer in the field known as public-choice theory, which views government decisions through the personal interests of the bureaucrats and elected leaders who want to advance in their careers and win campaigns.
He summarized public choice as “politics without romance” and said it helps explain why established bureaucracies “tend to grow apparently without limit,” why pork-barrel politics endure and why the tax system is defined by “the increasing number of special credits, exemptions and loopholes.” At the time he received the award, his ideas were finding a receptive audience within the administration of President Ronald Reagan.