"The simple exchange of apples and oranges between two traders—this institutional model is the starting point for all that I have done," writes Buchanan. "Contrast this with the choice between apples and oranges in the utility-maximizing calculus of Robinson Crusoe. [This is] what most economists do."
James M. Buchanan has always seemed an outsider—to establishment America, to the political values of modern academia, and to the orthodoxies of his parent discipline. Yet in addition to earning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1986, he is recognized as the theoretical inspiration for much of the Reagan era's economic philosophy, the father of public choice theory, and a powerful exponent of libertarian ideals.
Bluntly honest and always engaging, these twelve autobiographical essays recount and clarify the major influences on the unusual intellectual career of one of our most gifted and insightful thinkers. And his career has been unusual, for there have been few Nobel Laureates who have emerged from the genteel poverty of the rural South and fewer still who hoe their own cabbages. Equally down-to-earth, Buchanan's personal essays provide a unique perspective on how tradition, family, chance, and scholarship came together to shape his career.