Curiosity, Persistence, and Virtue

The qualities of the notable are usually best illustrated by their lesser known deeds, not by their greatest and most famous accomplishments.

It was only several months ago that Jim Buchanan asked me about the "tragedy of the commons" problem in his office. He had read a recent article in the American Economic Review called "The Voracity Effect," and could not understand how the authors arrived at their result.

He has since persisted in figuring the article out, enlisting his co-author Yong Yoon in the endeavor. He called a special session of the Public Choice seminar, after the university semester had finished, simply because he wanted to know.

Jim has not let up in his quest for knowledge. And not surprisingly, several others of us at the Center have been infected by the same quest to figure out this article.

At age 79, James Buchanan cares more about this article, and what we might learn from it, than any other reader of the American Economic Review.

For me, intellectual curiosity is one of the greatest of all personal virtues. I cannot think of any scholar who embodies this quality more than James Buchanan does, or who more successfully combines it with persistence and hard work.


Tyler Cowen

General Director

James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy

Mercatus Center