Here are a few of Evan Cantwell's photos from the Buchanan Lecture two weeks ago at George Mason University. Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen have a nice discussion at Marginal Revolution.
The event was a great success, in large measure thanks to a collaborative effort with the GMU Libraries. Their display of documents relating to Tullock and Buchanan's Calculus was fascinating.
Deirdre made the case for virtue ethics, an "economics that takes human flourishing seriously", she writes, "should start with the virtues -- and finish with them, too". "To put it in terms that begin to edge towards Virginia Political Economy, the seven virtues are what a flourishing individual wants for herself; it is what she chooses ..." Moreover, she argued, notwithstanding the "vivid realization that we need to talk about politics as it actually is" -- "the great merit of the so-called public choice, or Virginia, school", of Buchanan and Tullock -- McCloskey finds in Buchanan something of a kindred spirit:
[Buchanan] notes over and over again in his work that "if we [in Prudence-Only style] are considering games with effectively large numbers of players, there may exist little or no incentive for any single player to participate actively in any serious evaluation of the rules,"... He concludes that "participating in the discussion of constitutional rules must reflect the presence of some ethical precept that transcends rational interest for the individual. Bingo. Suddenly we are back in an ethical world. "We remain," Buchanan wrote in 1992, "ethically as well as economically interdependent."
A few reactions, for what they are worth. First, though Buchanan was quick to point out that we can get a great deal of action out of some sort of reciprocity norm -- so we don't need all of McCloskey's 7 virtues, perhaps (including Faith, Hope and Love), I do think McCloskey's got a point: Buchanan is driven by ethical concerns. Whether that takes him beyond fairness or not is something I've not sorted out.
Second, even the short bit above makes sense out of what sometimes seems (to an outsider like me) to be an disconnected collection of research and teaching interests at GMU: what holds together the unusual collection of research interests in the Center for Study of Public Choice; and why they're joined -- at least sometimes and certainly at the lecture -- by colleagues in experimental economics and neuroeconomics -- as well as by various diverse scholars from the economics department itself.