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Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan to give distinguished lecture


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 30, 2009 – Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan will give a talk, "A Failure of the Monetary Constitution: is constructive reform possible?" on Wednesday, April 8, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., as the featured speaker in the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series on Capitalism, hosted by Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business.

The talk, to be held at the Inn at Virginia Tech, Alumni Assembly Hall, is free and open to the public.

Buchanan, who taught at Virginia Tech from 1969 to 1983, and returned to campus in 1998 as a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics and Philosophy, is best known for developing the “public choice theory” of economics, which changed the way economists analyze economic and political decision making. His work is widely acknowledged to have opened the door for the examination of how politicians’ self-interest and non-economic forces affect government economic policy. Buchanan received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1986 for “his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.”

At Virginia Tech, Buchanan served as general director of the university’s Center for Study of Public Choice before he and the center moved to George Mason University in 1983. He retired from his position there as the center’s advisory general director in 2007.

A native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Buchanan received a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State College in 1940; a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1941; and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1948. He has taught at universities that include Tennessee, Florida State, Virginia, and University of California, Los Angeles. Among the many books he has written or co-written are The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (1962), with Gordon Tullock; Cost and Choice (1969); The Limits of Liberty (1975); and Liberty, Market, and State (1985); and his autobiography, Better than Plowing and Other Personal Essays (1992). Liberty Fund Inc. has published a series called The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan.

Buchanan’s recent publications include Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism (2005) and Economics from the Outside In: Better than Plowing and Beyond (2007).

The BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series on Capitalism is part of a teaching program exploring the foundations of capitalism and freedom that was established in 2007 in the Pamplin College’s finance department with a $1 million gift from BB&T Charitable Foundation. Featuring two speakers each year, the lecture series discusses current issues in business management and government policy, in addition to topics related to capitalism.

The undergraduate and graduate courses in the program “aim to present a balanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of free-market economies, with particular reference to current events and issues,” said finance department head Vijay Singal. “Free markets have implications for personal freedom, the efficient allocation of scarce resources, decentralized economic decision making, globalization, and social welfare,” said finance professor and program director Douglas Patterson. The courses examine alternative economic systems, including socialism and communism, and compare them with the economic solutions offered by free markets. This semester, the courses are studying the Great Depression and how it relates to current economic events.