Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Marianne Johnson (a1)


This paper examines James Buchanan’s earliest writings within the context of post-WWII public finance theory and his education at Chicago. Public choice scholars have long recognized their ties to Chicago, but few have examined Chicago’s role in serving as the primordial soup for Buchanan’s later work in public choice. Thus, we know very little about the subdiscipline of public finance at Chicago and its institutional and intellectual traditions in the immediate post-war period. As the influence of Frank Knight, price theory, and catallactics on Buchanan have been well explored, the focus here is on Buchanan’s graduate training in public finance, the departmental emphasis on product differentiation of ideas, and the general acceptance in ‘Old Chicago School’ economics of the importance of institutions and institutional design. I find that while he maintained a high degree of intellectual affinity with Chicago economics generally, Buchanan broke decisively with orthodox public finance (including that taught at Chicago) on several substantive issues early in his career, including the importance of expenditure theory and the relevance of the benefit principle and voluntary exchange.



Hide All
Backhaus, Jurgen G., and Wagner, Richard E.. 2005. “Continental Public Finance: Mapping and Recovering a Tradition.” Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice 23 (1–2): 4367.
Blough, Roy. 1937. “Review.” Journal of Political Economy 45 (4): 546548.
Blough, Roy. 1944. “Conflict and Harmony in Taxation.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 88 (1): 2228.
Brady, Gordon L. 2007. “The Chicago Roots of the Virginia School.” In Emmett, R., ed., The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics. New York: Edward Elgar, pp. 207233.
Brennan, Geoffrey. 2004. “Life in the Putty-Knife Factory.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 63 (1): 75104.
Buchanan, James M. 1948. “Fiscal Equity in a Federal State.” PhD dissertation, University of Chicago.
Buchanan, James M. 1949. “The Pure Theory of Government Finance, A Suggested Approach.” Journal of Political Economy 57 (6): 496505.
Buchanan, James M. 1950. “Federalism and Fiscal Equity.” American Economic Review 40 (4): 583599.
Buchanan, James M. 1951a. “Knut Wicksell on Marginal Cost Pricing.” Southern Economic Journal 18 (2): 173178.
Buchanan, James M. 1951b. “Fiscal Equity and the Unequal Treatment of Unequals: A Rejoinder.” Journal of Political Economy 59 (4): 358359.
Buchanan, James M. 1952a. “Federal Grants and Resource Allocation.” Journal of Political Economy 60 (3): 208217.
Buchanan, James M. 1952b. “Wicksell on Fiscal Reform: Comment.” American Economic Review 42 (4): 599602.
Buchanan, James M. 1952c. “Federal Grants and Resource Allocation: A Reply.” Journal of Political Economy 60 (6): 536538.
Buchanan, James M. 1954. “Individual Choice in Voting and the Market.” Journal of Political Economy 62 (4): 334343.
Buchanan, James M. 1967. Public Finance in Democratic Process. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Buchanan, James M. 1987. “The Constitution of Economic Policy.” American Economic Review 77 (3): 243250.
Buchanan, James M. 1992. Better than Plowing and Other Personal Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Buchanan, James M. 1999. “Origins, Experience, and Ideas: A Retrospective Assessment.” In Buchanan, J. and Musgrave, R., Public Finance and Public Choice: Two Contrasting Visions of the State. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 1128 and discussion 51–62.
Buchanan, James M. 2007. Economics from the Outside. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.
Buchanan, James M. 2010. “Chicago School Thinking: Old and New.” Preliminary Draft, Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economic Thought, Richmond, Virginia, June 20, 2010.
Buchanan, James M., and Tullock, Gordon. 1962. Calculus of Consent: Legal Foundations of Constitutional Democracy. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Burgin, Angus. 2007. “A Prehistory of the Chicago School.” Rethinking the Chicago School Conference, University of Notre Dame (September).
Emmett, Ross. 2007. “Oral History and the Historical Reconstruction of Chicago Economics.” In Weintraub, E. Roy and Forget, Evelyn, eds., Economists’ Lives: Biography and Autobiography in the History of Economics. History of Political Economy 39 (supplement): 172192.
Emmett, Ross. 2009. Frank Knight and the Chicago School in American Economics. New York: Routledge.
Emmett, Ross. 2011. “Sharpening the Tools in the Workshop: The Workshop System and the Chicago School’s Success.” In Van Horn, R., Mirowski, P., and Stapleford, T., eds., Building Chicago Economics: New Perspectives on the History of America’s Most Powerful Economics Program. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 95115.
Freedman, Craig. 2010. “South Side Blues: An Oral History of the Chicago School.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 32 (4): 495530.
Froman, Lewis A. 1942. “Graduate Students in Economics 1904–1940.” American Economic Review 32 (4): 817826.
Froman, Lewis A. 1952. “Graduate Students in Economics.” American Economic Review 42 (4): 602608.
Groves, Harold. 1939. Financing Government. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Hammond, Claire, and Hammond, Daniel J.. 2006. Making Chicago Price Theory: Friedman–Stigler Correspondence, 1945–1957. London: Routledge.
Hicks, Ursula K. 1934. “Taxation and Production: The Wicksell Analysis.” The Review of Economic Studies 2 (1): 1830.
Johnson, Marianne. 2014. “American Academic Public Finance: The First Fifty Years.” History of Political Economy, forthcoming.
Johnson, Marianne. 2005. “Wicksell’s Unanimity Rule for Public Goods: Buchanan’s Dominance Considered.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 64 (4): 10491071.
Kaplan, Norman Maurice. Papers, Box 1, Folder 5, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Knight, Frank. 1924. “Some Fallacies in the Interpretation of Social Cost.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 38: 582606.
Koopmans, Tjalling. 1947. “Measurement Without Theory.” Review of Economics and Statistics 29 (3): 161172.
Lampman, Robert. 1993. Economists at Wisconsin: 1892–1992. Madison, WI: The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
Leland, Simeon E. 1930. “The Relations of Federal, State, and Local Finance.” Proceedings, National Tax Association XXIII: 94106.
Less, Julie. 2012. Graduate Student Affairs Administrator for Economics. Email to Marianne Johnson, March 6.
Lindahl, Erik. 1919. Die Gerechtigkeit der Besteuerung. Lund.
McFadden, Robert D. 2013. “James M. Buchanan, Economic Scholar and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 93.” New York Times (January 9): online. Accessed July 29, 2104.
Meadowcroft, John. 2011. James M. Buchanan. New York: Continuum International Publishing.
Medema, Steven G. 2000. “Related Disciplines: The Professionalization of Public Choice Analysis.” The History of Applied Economics: History of Political Economy 32 (Supplement): 289323.
Medema, Steven G. 2011. “Public Choice and the Notion of Creative Communities.” History of Political Economy 43 (1): 225246.
Mehrotra, Ajay. 2007. “From Berlin to Baltimore: German Historicism and the American Income Tax, 1877–1913.” In Nuetzenadel, A. and Strupp, C., eds., Taxation, State and Civil Society in Germany and the United States. Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 167184.
Mehrotra, Ajay. 2014. Sharing the Burden: Law, Politics, and the Making of the Modern American Fiscal State, 1877–1929. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mosca, Manuela. 2011. Una storia degna di memoria, Antonio de Viti de Marco. Edited by Mosca, Manuela. Milano: Bruno Mondadori.
Moss, Laurence. 2003. “The Seligman–Edgeworth Debate about the Analysis of Tax Incidence.” History of Political Economy 35 (3): 205240.
Mullarkey, Colleen. 2012. Dissertation Office, University of Chicago. Email to Marianne Johnson, March 6.
Musgrave, Richard. 1939. “The Voluntary Exchange Theory of Public Economy.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 53 (2): 213237.
Musgrave, Richard. 1941. “The Planning Approach in Public Economy: A Reply.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 55 (2): 319324.
Peck, Jamie. 2011. “Orientation: In Search of the Chicago School.” In Van Horn, R., Mirowski, P., and Stapleford, T., eds., Building Chicago Economics. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. xxvlii.
Ross, Dorothy. 1991. The Origins of American Social Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rutherford, Malcolm. 2011. The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918–1947. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Samuels, Warren J. 2005. “F. Taylor Ostrander’s Notes on Henry Simons’s Course on Public Finance, Economics 360, University of Chicago, 1933–1934.” Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 23B: 241301.
Shoup, Carl. 1937. Facing the Tax Problem: A Survey of Taxation in the United States and a Program for the Future. New York: Twentieth Century Fund.
Simons, Henry C. 1934. A Positive Program for Laissez Faire. Public Policy Pamphlet No. 15, ed. Gideonse, H. D.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Simons, Henry C. 1937a. “Review of Facing the Tax Problem: A Survey of Taxation in the United States and a Program for the Future by Carl Shoup, Roy Blough, Mabel Newcomer.” Journal of Political Economy 45 (4): 532535.
Simons, Henry C. 1937b. “Review of the First Principles of Public Finance, by Antonio de Viti de Marco.” American Economic Review 45 (October): 712717.
Simons, Henry C. 1938. Personal Income Taxation: The Definition of Income as a Problem of Fiscal Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Simons, Henry C. 1948. Economic Policy for a Free Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Simons, Henry C. 1950. Federal Tax Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Simons, Henry C. Papers, Box 1, Folder 43. Special Collections, Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Stigler, George. 1987. “Frank Hyneman Knight.” In Eatwell, J., Milgate, M. and Newman, P., eds., New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Vol. 3. New York: Stockton Press, pp. 5559.
Uhr, Carl. 1951. “Knut Wicksell—A Centennial Evaluation.” American Economic Review 41 (5): 829860.
University of Chicago Annual Register. 1940–1949. Chicago: University of Chicago.
Van Horn, Robert, and Mirowski, Philip. 2009. “The Rise of the Chicago School of Economics.” In Mirowski, P. and Plehwe, D., eds., The Road from Mont Pelerin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 139180.
Van Overveldt, Johan. 2007. The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business. Chicago: Agate.
Wagner, Richard. 1988. “The Calculus of Consent: A Wicksellian Retrospective.” Public Choice 56 (February): 153166.
Wagner, Richard. 2004. “Public Choice as an Academic Enterprise: Charlottesville, Blacksburg, and Fairfax Retrospectively Viewed.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 63 (January): 5574.
Wagner, Richard. 2008. “James M. Buchanan.” In Blume, L. and Durlauf, S., eds., New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Second edition. London: Palgrave Macmillian. <> doi:10.1057/9780230226203.0170. Accessed 29 July 2014.
Walsh, Mary Williams. 2007. “Richard A. Musgrave, 96, Theoretician of Public Finance Dies.” New York Times (January 20), online. Accessed 29 July 2014.
White, Charles P. 1928. “The Effect of the 80 Per Cent Credit Clause of the Federal Estate Tax Law on State Inheritance Tax Laws.” Journal of Political Economy 36 (5): 625633.
Wicksell, Knut. 1896. Finanztheoretische Untersuchungen. Jena: Gustav Fisher.
Wicksell, Knut. 1935. Lectures on Political Economy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd.


  • Marianne Johnson (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed