A personal reminisciense about Jim Buchanan

Dr. Carlos Sabino, Sociologist, Full Professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela


My experience as a visiting professor in the Center for Study of Public Choice

I had my first contact with James Buchananīs ideas through a course of Public Choice Economics given by Emeterio Gómez, when I was taking my Ph.D. in Social Sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, in 1984. At that time, I was surprised by the systematic way in which the concepts of individual choice could reach to wider areas making more intelligible many social phenomenona that I had studied from another point of view as a sociologist.

My interest in the subject expanded to the study of the State in general as a public institution, and I wrote a paper that, in a more adequate version for the general public, was published by El Diario de Caracas in 1989. It was then that I decided to spend part of my up-coming sabbatical deepening my studies of Buchanan’s ideas. To do so, thanks to the help of Emilio Pacheco (Liberty Fund), I got in contact with the Center for Study of Public Choice, which accepted me, and I also got a grant for my stay in Virginia due to the efforts of Alex Chafuen (Atlas Foundation).

I went there during the fall term in 1990 and had an unforgettable experience. Viktor Vanberg, Jack Wiseman and Betty Tillman treated me with great cordiality and the free and creative atmosphere of the Center, the fluency of the discussions and its stimulating climate prevailing there immediately caught me. I took part in the delicious Brown Bag Lunch’s on Tuesday where I always received interesting contributions for my work. At that time, I was writing a book on social security with Jesús Eduardo Rodríguez (Social Security in Venezuela) that later won the Antony Fisher Memorial Award, Third Place, in 1992. Talking to Jack Wiseman, Viktor Vanberg, Geoffrey Brennan and other academics was extremely positive for me.

I gladly remember Jim Buchananīs personality. Not only for his academic contributions in these meetings and others, but also, and especially, for his modesty and capacity to work, his strong willingness to contribute to new projects and his southern courtesy too; courtesies that I only knew from important American literary works, but I did not have the chance of experiencing them myself.

To end I must emphasize that the contribution of Buchanan and the School of Public Choice, in general, was invaluable to me when I wrote my dictionary on Economics and Finances (Panapo publ., Caracas, 1991), a strong intellectual challenge, but one that still gives me a great sense of satisfaction.