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Who’s “Undistinguished”?

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No time is an acceptable time for spreading fake news, but now it is especially important for friends of truth and civility everywhere to call out fake news and “alternative facts.”  Alas, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is little more than a parade of fake news, “alternative facts,” and an author’s wild hallucinations.  Consider, for example, MacLean’s description on page 99 of Jim Buchanan’s long-time colleague and sometime co-author Gordon Tullock; this description comes in the part of MacLean’s fable where she is relating the University of Virginia’s failure in 1967 to promote Tullock to the rank of full professor:

Brilliant though Buchanan and his allies might have believed the law school alumnus [Tullock] to be, he lacked training in the field in which he taught, and his publication record – apart from the book he coauthored with Buchanan – was undistinguished.

Well now.  It’s true that Tullock (1922-2014) was formally trained as a lawyer and not as an economist.  But being brilliant and precocious, Tullock – having taken Henry Simons’s famous course in economics at the University of Chicago law school – taught himself advanced economics.  The scholar whose publication record MacLean calls “undistinguished” had, by the end of 1967:

– 3 publications in the American Economic Review (the top journal in economics)

– 4 publications in the Journal of Political Economy (a top journal in economics)

– 3 publications in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (a top journal in economics)

– 1 publication in Economic Journal (a top journal in economics)

– 1 publication in Oxford Economic Papers (a high-level journal in economics)

– 1 publication in Economic History Review (a high-level journal in economics)

– 3 publications in Ethics (a top journal in philosophy)

– 2 publications in Science (a high-level science journal)

– 1 publication in the Journal of the American Statistical Association (a top journal)

– 1 publication in Il Politico (a highly respected social-science journal in Italy)

– 1 publication in China Quarterly (a highly respected journal, I am told)

(Readers can check my list by searching Tullock’s publications at JSTOR [2], which does not include all journals in which Gordon might have published.)

And Gordon had just published, in the Western Economic Journal, “The Welfare Costs of Tariffs, Monopolies, and Theft [3],” his seminal article which would launch research into rent-seeking.

Book-wise, Tullock also by then also had co-authored (with Buchanan) The Calculus of Consent (1962) and had written and published The Politics of Bureaucracy (1965).

Tullock’s publication record in 1967 was most assuredly not “undistinguished.”  In fact, it was decidedly distinguished.

Nancy MacLean doesn’t know what she’s writing about.

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