It is no overstatement that James M. Buchanan was one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. He is also, somewhat curiously, one of the most subversive—laying the theoretical foundations that explain a political dynamic that is only just beginning to unfold, and with the potential to transform governance as we know it. A Nobel laureate for his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making, Buchanan made seminal contributions to several fields within economics and was a major figure in the revival of classical liberal political economy in the late twentieth century. He founded no less than two distinctive schools and research programmes: (1) public choice theory, applying the tools of economic analysis to traditional problems of political science and turning on its head the notion of the benevolent, omniscient government social-planner (‘politics without romance’) (Buchanan & Tullock 1962; Buchanan & Wagner 1977; Buchanan & Tollison 1984); and (2) constitutional economics, the study of the legal–institutional–constitutional rules that constrain the choices and activities of economic and political agents (‘the rules of the game’) (Brennan & Buchanan 1985; Buchanan 1987, 1990).
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