At its founding, the set of ideas that came to be known as Virginia Political Economy originated from the work of Rutledge Vining, James Buchanan, Warren Nutter, Ronald Coase, and Gordon Tullock. In terms of scholarly stature, that short list comprises two Nobel Prize winners (Buchanan and Coase) and a recipient of the American Economic Association Distinguished Fellow award (Tullock). It also includes an economist (Nutter) who, in the midst of the Cold War, described the Soviet economy more accurately than any of the major experts in that field. Virginia Political Economy was characterized by four foundational principles: the endogeneity of group goals, egalitarianism, reciprocity, and trade. By offering an overarching vision of the principles of the Virginia School, we dis­tinguish between tensions that are difficult to reconcile and gaps that are easily addressed.

Document Type

Book Chapter



Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2018 Mercatus Center at George Mason University. This chapter first appeared in Buchanan's Tensions: Reexamining the Political Economy and Philosophy of James M. Buchanan.

Edited by Peter J. Boettke and Solomon Stein

Please note that downloads for the book chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at Amazon.