When I fell off the horse

Jordi Bacaria. Professor of Economic Policy at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Director of the Institut Universitari díEstudis Europeus

Some ideas have been in our mind for a long time fitting us much as oneís better suits fits oneís body. That is to some extent correct in my case with regards to James Buchanan's contribution to constitutional political economy. I came across his writings around twenty years ago. It was then that I took the decision to finish my short but passionate political life in the Spanish transition to democracy and commence my career at the university.

In 1979 I was an elected member of one City Council in the vicinities of Barcelona. These were the first local democratic elections in Spain. At about this time, Antoni Casahuga, a colleague of mine at the university, introduced me to the public choice approach. He invited me to work on a book of readings in Spanish about the theory of economic policy. The book dealt with the old and new mainstreams in economic policy. Unfortunately, Casahuga died in 1983 (he was 41 years old), leaving me with the task of editing the book. We included in the book two papers by James Buchanan, "A contractarian paradigm for applying economic theory", and "Fiscal responsibility in constitutional democracy" (this with Richard Wagner). The former paper, a seminal one, introduced me to the contractual theory, which since then I have adopted in my approach to the theory of economic policy.

This influence has been clearly perceived by my students, as demonstrated anecdotally by the appearance in a satirical student magazine two years ago of the phrase: "if Buchanan is the God, Bacaria is his prophet". If the first paper has changed my academic approach, the second, the treatment of the fiscal responsibility in constitutional democracy, has also changed my political life. In 1982, I left behind my political activity and since then I have concentrated my work on teaching and research. One could say that James Buchananís work caused me to fall off the horse as I was riding along the way of the political left. I take the opportunity in this personal reminiscence on the influence of James Buchanan's ideas on my career and even on my life, to give him publicly my thanks.