Virginia school of political economy

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

The Virginia school of political economy is the school of economic thought originating in universities of Virginia and mainly focusing on public choice theory, constitutional economics, and law and economics.


It emerged first at the Thomas Jefferson Center at the University of Virginia established by James M. Buchanan and G. Warren Nutter in 1957. It was there that Ronald Coase formulated his famous theorem on the problem of social cost (1960) and that Buchanan and Gordon Tullock wrote[1] The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (1962). During this period, the early ideas of the school were influenced by the works of Dr. David Dunn.

In 1969, Buchanan, Tullock, and Charles J. Goetz established the Center for the Study of Public Choice at Virginia Tech, which moved with them to George Mason University in 1983. Other prominent scholars associated with the school include Dennis C. Mueller, Robert D. Tollison, Andrew B. Whinston, and Leland B. Yeager.[2]

Economic approach

The Virginia approach to political economy focuses on comparing private and public sector institutions as imperfect alternatives. The Virginia approach is also favored by some economists of the Chicago and Austrian schools. Virginia School economists are often seen as 'fellow travelers' with Austrian economists, as members of both schools of economic thought generally favor free-market outcomes.

There are several main lines of research in the Virginia School. James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were among the earliest economists to apply economic analysis to national constitutions. Tullock also founded the modern rent seeking literature. Mancur Olson founded modern research on collective action and special interest groups. Olson was not at GMU, Virginia, or Virginia Tech, but Virginia scholars tend to emphasize special interest group bias in government.

The Public Choice Society is an outgrowth of the Virginia School.


  1. Gordon Tullock, 2004. Virginia Political Economy, C. K. Rowley, ed. Liberty Fund. (Description.)
  2. • Charles K. Rowley and Michelle A. Vachris, 1996. F. E. Foldvary, ed., Beyond Neoclassical Economics: Heterdox Approaches to Economic Theory, Edward Elgar. Description and contents: B& links.
       • William Breit, 1987. "Creating the 'Virginia school': Charlottesville as an Academic Environment in the 1960s," Economic Inquiry, 25(4), pp. 645–657.
       • James M. Buchanan, 2006, "The Virginia Renaissance in Political Economy: The 1960s Revisited," in Money and Markets: Essays in Honor of Leland B. Yeager, Roger Koppl, ed., pp. 34-44.