James Buchanan: a personal remembrance
I got hired as an assistant professor at GMU in 1984, right after the Public Choice Center moved there from Blacksburg. GMU interviewed me at the AEA meetings that year. It was a two-stage interview. I met in the living room with Phil Wiest and someone else who I can't recall. After having "passed" that initial interview, I was escorted into the bedroom where Jim was sitting on the bed in a shirt and tie and stocking feet (and pants too!). He proceeded to grill me for about 20 minutes. I left the interview thinking it had not gone well.
But I got a flyout and, after surviving some serious hazing from Gordon Tullock at my job talk, got and accepted an offer.
Shortly thereafter Jim won the Nobel Memorial Prize. As an assistant professor, I would circulate working papers to several senior colleagues (Tollison, Tullock, Crain, Buchanan). Jim would respond with a typed letter giving comments and criticism. I was made an associate of the Public Choice Center and started getting summer money.
Then I wrote a paper (never published) testing whether surprise deficits raised interest rates (they didn't). Never got any comments from Jim. In fact, I don't think he ever spoke to me again.
But I didn't get kicked out of the Center, and he supported me for tenure (if he hadn't of, I wouldn't have gotten it).
Buchanan was both an intimidating and an inspirational figure to me as a young professor. I would not ever say we were friends or even friendly, but I learned a lot from him and his support was important for launching my career (such as it is).