Gordon Tullock is Retiring

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Via Yang He:

Dear Colleagues:

I understand that Gordon Tullock is retiring from his position at George Mason University and, very shortly, will be moving to Tucson, Arizona to join his sister and her family. So now is the time for all of us to pay our respects to Gordon and to thank him from the bottom of our hearts for all that he has done to create an international reputation in Public Choice for our beloved department.

Gordon first joined the Virginia academic system 50 years ago when he joined Jim Buchanan at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in the Grand Venture that would create Public Choice as a world-recognized independent research program in the social sciences. With the exception of a 12 year stint at the University of Arizona, Gordon has spent his illustrious career in Virginia,first at UVA, then at Virginia Tech and finally at George Mason University.

For more than 25 years, Gordon edited his journal, Public Choice, before eventually passing that responsibility on to Bob Tollison and myself in 1990. In 2007, we ourselves passed on that responsibility to the safe hands of our long-time friend and good colleague, Bill Shughart. Throughout his career, Gordon's office door has always been open to faculty and to graduate students alike, providing easy access to his encyclopedic knowledge and to his brilliant academic mind, his friendship and his open generosity. I have been truly privileged to work so closely with Gordon over a half lifetime of some 35 years, to have reaped the enormous intellectual benefits of close association with the only true genius that I have ever encountered.

For those of you who have yet to encounter Gordon's scholarship, I urge you to purchase and to read, cover to cover, the 10 volume Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, that I recently edited for Liberty Fund. There is no better education for a young economist aspiring to contribute in the tradition of Virginia Political Economy, no better introduction into the ways of truly creative Renaissance Scholarship.

Now, however, it is important for each of us to pay our personal respects to Gordon, to thank him personally for what he has done for us, and to wish him well on the next phase in the great journey of his life. Gordon cannot now come to main campus. For a few short days, however, he will continue to occupy his wonderful office on the fourth floor of the Law School. As always, he welcomes visits and discussions. I know that he would love to chat and to shake hands with all those many well-wishers and grateful fellow-scholars who care to make the short journey to Arlington before he journeys westwards to a well-earned retirement.

Gordon Tullock always refers to Duncan Black as the Founding Father of Public Choice, using the Chinese term: 'He is the father of all of us'. Now, since I occupy the Duncan Black Chair that Gordon generously funded at George Mason University, I can hardly deny the justice of Gordon's assertion! At the same time, I must counter-claim, at least with respect to my own long career in Public Choice, that Gordon Tullock, not Duncan Black, is my Father.

Charles K. Rowley
Duncan Black Professor of Economics
George Mason University

2 Comments

Hello Kevin,

You must be surprised how I've managed to track your blog.:) There is a statistics summary of the visitors on my blog.

I am an Econ Ph.D. student at Mason. I am from China.

Feel free to comment on my blog! I know you may not understand Chinese. :(

By the way, my American name is Helen.

Nihao! Gordon was a good man, I hope he likes Arizona, its climate and hope he doesn't develop "valley fever" from the dust. And now for something completely different:

I have a theory about the bailout crisis: it's routine--a routine credit contraction caused by overexpansion. I would welcome a comment from the readers of this blog.

Here's how to prove this yourself: Google "The Curve in the Road by John Mauldin". Look at the two graphs for LIBOR over the last year and for commercial paper outstanding since 1990. Two things stand out: LIBOR also spiked in Dec 07 and from Mar-May 08--to 2% from 0.5%. This past 30 days it spiked from 1% to 3.5%. To me, it doesn't seem unprecedented. I've heard that in the early 1970s a similar spike occurred (can anybody confirm this?). Second, and most damaging: the reduction in commercial paper is not historically abnormal now. From 2000 to 2003, commercial paper dropped 19% (look at the graph: 1600 to 1300). From 2006 to 2008 (today's crisis) commercial paper outstanding dropped 25% (2200 to 1650). Severe yes, but, again, not totally unprecedented.

Can we therefore say that this credit crisis is a 'routine' (albeit severe) response to the credit expansion we've had over the last five years or so? If so, then why did Bernanke and Paulson panic? Could it be that as middle-aged men who have never witnessed a severe credit contraction (such as happened in the early 1970s and early 1980s), they overreacted? Of course, more cynical and sinister theories are possible, but this is the benign theory: they were simply over their heads in responding to a relatively normal credit contraction. And we taxpayers have to pay, as well as setting an extremely damaging precedent for the USA.

One final note: you can argue that "but for" the government intervention, the contraction in commercial paper would have been much more severe, which therefore justifies the intervention. But this is complete speculation. In fact, you can argue that $700 B is not enough to prevent further contraction, and therefore this argument is circular.

PS--A professional economist has independently made a similar argument to the above: Google "What Crisis" by professor John Seater.

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