James M. Buchanan passed away today. He was a great economist and social philosopher, pioneer of public choice theory and constitutional economics. He received the 1986 Nobel Price in economics “for his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making”.
This is not the place for an obituary. But let me honour him with just one quote from an interview with Karen Horn (member of Open Europe Berlin’s advisory board). It shows not only his concerns with European integration, but also his humble and noble character which will be greatly missed.
Karen Horn: … sometimes topics for research may come up in connection with policy debates in the public
“oh, yes, and I was involved in some of that. For example, I did want to see Europe go into a federal structure, so that the states would maintain their existence and their powers, while ensuring free trade and full mobility of capital and labor across borders. I wrote that paper for a conference in Paris in 1990 called ‘Europe’s constitutional opportunity’. Then I spun off from that whole idea of European federalism, and produced many different papers on that. However, I was too optimistic. I made two mistakes in that paper. I thought that due to the demise of communism, the old-fashioned socialist position and central planning had much less power than it did. On the other side I assumed that the federalism idea was so obvious and wouldn’t generate much opposition, especially from the British. The federalism thing just seemed natural. Well, some of my stuff has always been triggered by these ongoing issues. And still is. I really ought to get involved and say something about free trade, insisting on the strength of the Smithian logic as opposed to the Ricardian one – in order to get this huge protectionist sentiment down in this country.”