The University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies sponsors an annual Summer Institute for the History of Economic Thought with excellent lectures by Deirdre McCloskey and James M. Buchanan (several by Buchanan). Of particular interest are McCloskey’s lecture and Buchanan’s talk “Chicago Thinking: Old and New.” Most students of economic thinking who are familiar with the Chicago School have a cartoon character in mind that doesn’t reflect the subtlety of what McCloskey calls the “Pretty Good Old Chicago School” that raked in Nobels for Friedman, Becker, Stigler, Fogel, and Lucas. Furthermore, they aren’t likely to have much familiarity with the complexity and profundity of what McCloskey calls the “Good Old Chicago School” of Frank Knight that trained Buchanan.
The Buchanan lectures are insightful in no small part because of the calumnies against the man and his intellectual system advanced in Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains.” His lectures on the fiscal responsibilities for and responses to the Great Recession are especially interesting, and they pair nicely with Buchanan and Richard Wagner’s Democracy in Deficit. Wagner, of course, is a Buchanan student and the author more recently of James M. Buchanan and Liberal Political Economy, which I review for the Winter 2017-2018 (Buchanan’s Big Idea) issue of Regulation.