Gordon Tullock's Scholarly Legacy: Extracting It from Buchanan's Shadow

By Wagner, Richard E. | Independent Review, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Gordon Tullock's Scholarly Legacy: Extracting It from Buchanan's Shadow


Wagner, Richard E., Independent Review


Thinking was Gordon Tullock's main interest in life. He let his thinking roam widely and creatively over his many fields of interest; moreover, Tullock is widely recognized for the robust and creative quality of this thought. He left a valuable legacy. All the same, I think the value of that legacy is underappreciated. Too much of Tullock is perceived as residing within the shadow of James Buchanan's constitutional thinking, with Tullock supplying the homo economicus to complement Buchanan's broader constitutional concerns. To the contrary, I would describe Tullock and Buchanan as resembling divergent parabolas who point analytically in opposing directions, despite their common point of origin in the high value they place on individual liberty. Both were social theorists, with their divergent research programs constituting a yin and yang of liberal political economy. Tullock, however, unlike Buchanan, never created an overview of his research program, leaving him to be perceived in significant measure as simply supplying the homo economicus needed to complement Buchanan's constitutional political economy. If Buchanan's oeuvre is regarded as an intellectual cathedral, I would aver that Tullock's oeuvre is generally regarded as a flying buttress in Buchanan's cathedral. But I believe that Tullock's oeuvre likewise constitutes a cathedral.

Even though Tullock came to publish increasingly without Buchanan after 1970 or so, the bulk of his work seemed to entail trituration of the homo economicus theme after the fashion of George Stigler and Gary S. Becker (1977). Without doubt, Tullock theorized in terms of people seeking to make the best of the situations they faced. His incessant use of homo economicus, however, failed to capture what he was truly about. Tullock was an empirically oriented theorist after the fashion of Frank Knight, as exemplified by Ross Emmett's (2006) contrast between Knight and Stigler-Becker. Examination of Tullock's oeuvre shows that he was not a theorist of rational choice. To the contrary, he was a social theorist whose work focused on the eternal human predicament that social life entails. Sure, all societies are inhabited by people who try to do the best they can as they understand their situations. This recognition, however, does not make a person a rational-choice theorist. Tullock's thinking recognized that societies are rife with emergent phenomena that arise through interaction. His work centered on human interactions within society, not on rational choice per se. Tullock was more than the "natural economist" that Buchanan (1987) described him as being. Tullock was a social theorist who never articulated his social theory, even though that theory is present throughout his oeuvre. Furthermore, his social theory diverges in significant ways from Buchanan's.

In a paper I wrote for a festschrift in Tullock's honor (Rowley 1987), I noted that Tullock's publications relate to matters treated by departments of political science, public administration, biology, philosophy, sociology, history, and military science. His publications also contribute to matters of interest to faculties in schools of law and criminology, as well as to faculties associated with interdisciplinary programs in international relations and Asiatic studies. All of this is in addition to his contributions to fields more narrowly economic. Someone writing a survey of Tullock's works would surely think he w as surveying the work of the faculty of a small university. (Wagner 1987a, 33-34, emphasis added)

The high value of Tullock's large body of work is attested to by his being named a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association in 1997, in addition to being honored by other professional associations. It is also attested to by the large volume of citations to many pieces of his body of work. Tullock's original paper on rent seeking (Tullock 1967) has been cited more than four thousand times, and his follow-up paper on efficient rent seeking (Tullock 1980) has been cited more than three thousand times. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Gordon Tullock's Scholarly Legacy: Extracting It from Buchanan's Shadow
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.