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RIP James Buchanan

2013 January 9
by Phil Miller

Nobel laureate James Buchanan has died at the age of 93.  Well known for his work on public choice, he also developed a model of clubs that can help us sports economists understand the working of sports leagues and college conferences.   I did just that in this post from a couple of years ago when college conference realignment was just getting revved up.

Sports leagues can be thought of as clubs. To enter any club, permission must be obtained from the incumbents, which means a sufficient number of them must be made better off by the entrant. Similarly, the entrant has to be made better off by joining the club. If it is mutually-beneficial, we’ll see entry into the club.

Buchanan helped us understand that people working together are still primarily motivated by self-interest, and his insights enriched the discipline.  RIP James Buchanan.

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