Better Than Plowing and Other Personal Essays Summary

James M. Buchanan

Better Than Plowing and Other Personal Essays

BETTER THAN PLOWING is the condensed autobiography of James M. Buchanan, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. He describes life as being remarkably untroubled as he moves from a Tennessee farm to the Nobel prize. His origins were rural, and he spent his early years on a Tennessee farm. An excellent student at Middle Tennessee State Teachers College, he went on to do graduate work at the University of Tennessee. After four years in the Navy during World War II, he went to the University of Chicago to complete his work for a Ph. D. in economics.

Buchanan later taught at Chicago and the University of Virginia. He developed an economic theory called Public Choice which led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1986. This theory, which reduces all economic interchange to the transactions of individual traders, became one of the key elements in Reaganomics. Buchanan faced resistance to his theory from liberals; in response he created the Center for Public Choice, currently at James Mason University. While teaching at James Mason, he bought a Virginia farm and has returned to his rural roots.

BETTER THAN PLOWING is an interesting memoir in which Buchanan traces his background and development. He is very generous in acknowledging his mentors and followers. His rural experience was probably responsible for the creation of his individualistic economic theory. What could have been a barrier to his success instead became a primary agent in his movement from near poverty to the Nobel Prize.