Main


October 6, 2007

Buchanan on Hayek, Rawls and Nozick

 

  Sandy Peart talking to James Buchanan.  Source of photo:  me. 

 

In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned a comment on disagreeing with journal referees, made by  James Buchanan in conversation at the closing dinner of the 2007 Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economics.

Hayek also came up at the dinner with Buchanan. Buchanan mentioned that he was not as enthused about Hayek’s later work, including The Fatal Conceit, and Law, Legislation and Liberty—he thought the best might have been The Constitution of Liberty.

He mentioned that some foundation had funded a couple of conferences in Europe of top free market scholars to offer advice to Hayek.  They told Hayek that his manuscript was a mess, and that it would be an embarrassment to him to publish it. But he said he was already under contract. (I think this comment referred to The Fatal Conceit.) So someone (Bruce Bartlett?) helped Hayek clean it up.

Buchanan also spoke highly about Rawls.  I think I mentioned that Hayek had said that his approach was similar to Rawls.  I think Buchanan said he did not think that comment was surprising.

I also believe I remember Buchanan saying that he thought more highly of Rawls than of Nozick.

 




September 8, 2007

James Buchanan Convinced Harry Johnson to Over-Rule the Referees

 

  James Buchanan (center) flanked by economics graduate students at the the closing dinner of the 2007 Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economics, held at George Mason University.  (Source of photo:  me.)

 

On the evening of Thursday, June 7, 2007, Nobel-prize-winner James Buchanan joined participants for their final dinner-gathering at George Mason's Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economics.

As a young economist, you are advised that it is never productive to dispute the decisions of journal editors. 

But Buchanan, in conversation during the dinner, mentioned that he had only once disputed a journal rejection--of an article submitted to the JPE during Harry Johnson's editorship.  Buchanan said that he wrote Johnson a letter explaining that the referees had totally misunderstood his paper; Johnson read the paper himself, agreed with Buchanan, and published it.

This tells us something about Buchanan, but also something about Johnson.  I never took a class from Johnson, but had a conversation with him at a party or reception once, in the last year or two before his death.  All I remember about the conversation was that he was polite and respectful to an unknown graduate student, and that somehow we got onto the topic of car advertising.

I remember hearing that sometimes Harry Johnson whittled on wood carving projects during committee meetings.  Someone asked him why he did that, and he is reputed to have responded that at the end of the meeting he liked to feel as though something at been accomplished.

 




June 13, 2007

A Public Choice Theory of the Absence of Evidence of the Exodus of the Israelites

 

   The excavation of a fort from roughly the time and place of the biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.  Source of photo:  the online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

The economic theory of public choice is often viewed as having begun with Buchanan and Tullock's The Calculus of Consent.  The theory seeks to explain the behavior of government, and government officials, as arising from the same self-interested motives as are used by economists to explain the behavior of free markets, firms, and consumers.

 

It didn’t look like much — some ancient buried walls of a military fort and a few pieces of volcanic lava. The archaeologist, Dr. Zahi Hawass, often promotes mummies and tombs and pharaonic antiquities that command international attention and high ticket prices. But this bleak landscape, broken only by electric pylons, excited him because it provided physical evidence of stories told in hieroglyphics. It was proof of accounts from antiquity.

That prompted a reporter to ask about the Exodus, and if the new evidence was linked in any way to the story of Passover. The archaeological discoveries roughly coincided with the timing of the Israelites’ biblical flight from Egypt and the 40 years of wandering the desert in search of the Promised Land.

“Really, it’s a myth,” Dr. Hawass said of the story of the Exodus, as he stood at the foot of a wall built during what is called the New Kingdom. 

. . .  

Recently, diggers found evidence of lava from a volcano in the Mediterranean Sea that erupted in 1500 B.C. and is believed to have killed 35,000 people and wiped out villages in Egypt, Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula, officials here said. The same diggers found evidence of a military fort with four rectangular towers, now considered the oldest fort on the Horus military road.

But nothing was showing up that might help prove the Old Testament story of Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt, or wandering in the desert. Dr. Hawass said he was not surprised, given the lack of archaeological evidence to date. But even scientists can find room to hold on to beliefs.

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the head of the excavation, seemed to sense that such a conclusion might disappoint some. People always have doubts until something is discovered to confirm it, he noted.

Then he offered another theory, one that he said he drew from modern Egypt.

“A pharaoh drowned and a whole army was killed,” he said recounting the portion of the story that holds that God parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape, then closed the waters on the pursuing army.

“This is a crisis for Egypt, and Egyptians do not document their crises.”

 

For the full story, see: 

MICHAEL SLACKMAN.  "North Sinai Journal Did the Red Sea Part? No Evidence, Archaeologists Say."   The New York Times  (Tues., April 3, 2007):  A4.

(Note:  ellipsis added.) 

 

 A female skelaton buried near the fort (above).  Source of photo:  the online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg


















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats