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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 446 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan [2]’s Spring/Summer 1994 Cato Journal article, “Notes on the Liberal Constitution [3],” as this article is reprinted in Choice, Contract, and Constitutions [4] (2001), which is volume 16 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan [5]:

The socialist vision of politicized control-regulation of economic interaction has by no means been exorcised from the modern mind-set despite the evidence from reason or from history. The belief that persons, acting jointly through their membership in collectivities, can effectively “improve” on the spontaneously generated outcomes of market processes remains imbedded in the modern psyche. Despite the overwhelming strength of the evidence, and despite supporting argument, persons cannot readily acquiesce in the stance suggested by post-socialist reality. The romance of socialism, which is dependent both on an idealized politics and a set of impossible behavioral presuppositions, has not yet disappeared.

DBx: Today – October 3rd – is the 100th anniversary of Buchanan’s birth. Jim was born on a farm in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He died in Blacksburg, Virginia, on January 9th, 2013 [6].

Jim came to call the intellectual tradition whose founding he led “Virginia Political Economy.” He did so in part because of his admiration for James Madison’s constitutional project, but also because Jim spent most of his academic career teaching at Virginia universities: the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University. (The longest single stretch of his career was spent at George Mason.)

I recall many years ago – likely in the late 1990s –  a conversation that I had with Bob Higgs, a scholar with especially incisive judgment. Bob said, in admiration of Jim, “Jim is deep.” Deep indeed was Jim Buchanan’s thoughts, ideas, and scholarship. The importance of his many contributions to the social sciences generally, and to economics especially, cannot be overstated.

As readers of this blog are aware, within the past couple of years some ideologues – blinded by appalling ignorance and biases, and having no regard for rules of civilized discourse and scholarly inquiry – have told utterly false tales about Jim Buchanan. Not tales embellished; not tales exaggerated; not tales masking truth with obscurity. No. These instead are tales woven out of wholly fictitious cloth. These tales’ weavers are either conscious liars without a moral compass, or people so lacking any capacity for rational thought that one wonders how they tie their shoes.

We can only hope that the noble desire possessed by many people for truth and understanding – and for simple decency – will eventually cause the “scholarship” of those who have slandered Jim Buchanan to be seen for the capacious idiocy and lousy fiction that it is. And we can, and should, be grateful that a scholarly giant such as Buchanan lived as long as he did, worked as diligently and as honestly as he did, and, in consequence, bestowed on humankind scholarship that will teach and inspire for generations.

Happy Birthday, Jim. We miss you.

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