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Jim Buchanan: An Economist’s Economist

Here’s my tribute to Jim Buchanan in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal.  A slice:

Jim’s nonsense-detection instincts are on full display in his 1958 book “Public Principles of Public Debt.” By the 1950s most economists were trumpeting the Keynesian myth that government debt is no burden on future taxpayers as long as it is held internally—that is, as long as “we owe it to ourselves.”

Wrong, said Jim. It is unfortunate that he is no longer here to speak out against the again-rampant Keynesians who advocate massive deficit financing. Misled by their own unjustified lumping together of taxpayers and domestic bondholders, Keynesians mistakenly conclude that government is exempt from the reality that counsels households and firms to follow prudent rules of finance. This Keynesian error is one that Jim never tired of challenging.

And here’s the WSJ‘s own superb, unsigned editorial on Jim.  A slice from it:

In our own times “market failures were set against an idealized politics,” Buchanan wrote in 2003. Public choice provided “a set of theories of governmental failures,” or as Buchanan called it, “politics without romance.”