Anthony de Jasay

Taking Criticsm in the Grand Manner

This is not an appreciation of James Buchananís oeuvre, nor even of any part or aspect of it, for other contributors to the present cybernetic Festschrift - if this is what it is - can do that much better than I. Rather, the present brief entry is meant to place on record a personal experience of mine that has never ceased to fill me with admiration for Buchananís character. It is an experience other contributors may have had no opportunity to have.

I left a fairly brief academic career as an economist, and after a hiatus of nearly a quarter century spent in a very different environment, came back to the periphery of the world of learning as a political philosopher. I relate this to make clear that my name was totally unknown when I published my first book in this field, with my name destined to remain unknown and the book unread.

James Buchanan spotted the book, reviewed it most generously and made others read it. It is fair to say that if any notice was subsequently taken of what I had to say, it was Buchananís doing. For my part, I repaid his good turn by repeatedly subjecting Buchananís view of constitutions, limited government and indeed his entire contractarian theory of political organization to criticism that, as the saying goes, Ďpulled no punchesí.

In the circumstances, many other theorists would have taken this as shameless ingratitude, if not outright treachery. James Buchanan took it not only with the dispassionate objectivity of the best type of scholar, but with a serenity and magnanimity that remains a constant source of the respect and friendship I feel for him.