Faculty and Staff
Retired / Past Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Alex Tabarrok is the director of the Center for Study of Public Choice and the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center.
His and Tyler Cowen's online education project: Marginal Revolution University continues to expand with more free online courses economics. Cowen and Tabarrok this year produced a new course on the principles of microeconomics.
Dr. Tabarrok's principles of economics textbook, Modern Principles of Economics (with Tyler Cowen) published this year in its 3rd edition. A notable feature of the new edition is embedded video content! Marginal Revolution University (with Tyler Cowen) continues to expand with more free online courses economics.
Dr. Tabarrok also published several articles this year including a paper on online education in the American Economic Review (May) that was also featured in a session at the AEA meetings. He also published on guns and suicide in the International Review of Law and Economics with PhD student Justin Briggs and on patents with newly graduated PhD student Shawn Miller in Econ Journal Watch . In addition, with Tufts researchers Joseph A. DiMasi and Christopher-Paul Milne, Dr. Tabarrok published An FDA Report Card: Wide Variance in Performance Found among Agency's Drug Review Divisions. This Manhattan Institute report, which also features a foreword by former FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, received notable media coverage, especially in the medical media. In addition, the report led to Dr. Tabarrok giving testimony on FDA reform to House members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dr. Tabarrok also contributed to an Amicus Brief for the Supreme Court in the case of Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar.
He continues to write regularly at Marginal Revolution.
Donald Boudreaux published The Essential Hayek - a book that distills F.A. Hayek's main ideas into chapters that are accessible to non-economists. He also edited What America's Decline in Economic Freedom Means for Entrepreneurship and Prosperity. This latter book won the 2015 Sir Antony Fisher Award from the Atlas Network.
Boudreaux continues to write his twice-monthly column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and to write with some regularity for national publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Barron's.
The blog he writes with Dr. Russell Roberts, Café Hayek, can be found at www.cafehayek.com.
Bryan Caplan has finished his magnum opus, The Case Against Education, which he has been writing since 2011. The book argues that the neglected signaling model of education explains most of what goes on in classrooms around the world. Contrary to popular and academic belief, the “return to education” largely reflects rent-seeking rather than genuine creation of human capital. Dr. Caplan's book argues that government support for education largely rests not on interest-group politics, but “the political economy of Social Desirability Bias.”
Education sounds wonderful, even though sober calculation of its social rate of return reveals massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, voters care far more about policies sound than how well they actually work, making high and growing education budgets popular around the globe. The Case Against Education will be published in 2017 by Princeton University Press.
Caplan's next project is a non-fiction graphic novel on the social science and philosophy of immigration, tentatively titled All Roads Lead to Open Borders. Economists from Jonathan Gruber to Yoram Bauman have published educational graphic novels, and Caplan, a long-time fan of the genre, plans to join their ranks. If all goes well, All Roads Lead to Open Borders will be excellent secondary textbook for classes in labor economics, immigration, global justice, and public choice.
Tyler Cowen finished a book manuscript, a comparative examination of the historical economic development of the United States and China, during the last year. This eventually will come out as a full-length book. He also finished his book-length manuscript on the philosophical foundations of a free society - Stubborn Attachments - and publication of that work should come this summer.
He also worked on his book The Great Social Stagnation, which is now finished and will appear early next year.
He has continued as a once every five weeks economics columnist for The New York Times, the Sunday Business section.
He began the series Conversations with Tyler, with such luminaries as Jeffrey Sachs, Luigi Zingales, Dani Rodrik, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Nate Silver, Cliff Asness, Jonathan Haidt, and Camille Paglia, all at the Arlington campus. Bloomberg named this the best business and economics podcast of the year; video and transcript versions are available as well.
During this year, Dr. Cowen and co-author Alex Tabarrok continued their work of Modern Principles: Microeconomics, and also Macroeconomics. Those are now out and in use, published with Freeman Worth. This text is not just a rehash of the other books on the market but rather it attempts a comprehensive statement of economics from a “GMU point of view.”
He continued, along with colleague Alex Tabarrok, the daily blogging of economic and other ideas for www.marginalrevolution.com, with readers include such economists as Greg Mankiw, Steve Levitt, Paul Krugman, Luigi Zingales, and many others. Cowen made extensive use of both MR and Twitter to promote the research being done at GMU by many other faculty members and graduate students, including Daniel Klein, Mark Koyama, Noel Johnson, Bryan Caplan, Robin Hanson, Garett Jones, David Levy, and others.
Cowen was appointed to the advisory board of the U.S. Navy, and in that capacity he reports directly to Admiral Richardson, the Chief Naval Officer for the United States.
2015 saw the further continuation of MRuniversity.com, a site for the on-line teaching of economics, in conjunction with Alex Tabarrok. Cowen and Tabarrok now have over a dozen classes up and running, including Development Economics, The Eurozone, Economics of the Media, The Economy of Mexico, International Economics, and International Finance, among others. In particular they now have created the world's first serious on-line microeconomics class, with each video in the series offering strong analytics and also high production values, typically done with a studio, professional staff, and professional filmmakers. These videos are being used in hundreds of classrooms around the country and this is generally considered the world's leading site for economics videos.
Tim Groseclose appeared on or was quoted by several media outlets in 2015 including, The Larry Elder Show, Fox & Friends, the Washington Times, USA Today, Vox.com, The Washington Post, FoxNews.com, Powerlineblog.com, the Laura Ingraham (radio) Show, and the College Fix. He began two new projects, “Bargaining When Only One Player Can Make Proposals,” and “A Market-Based Method to Rank Sports Teams.”
During Fall 2015, he served as the director of the Public Choice seminar series. He continues to be an active “tweeter” on twitter.com and occasionally writes posts for the blog, Ricochet.com.
Robin Hanson finished his unprecedentedly broad book, The Age of Em: Economics of Brain Emulations, submitting the final draft in August 2015. It will be published by Oxford University Press in the United States on June 1, 2016. In spring 2015, Oxford accepted the book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, coauthored with Kevin Simler. A full draft was submitted for review in May 2016.
In 2015, Dr. Hanson gave 16 academic presentations, and wrote dozens of posts at his blog Overcoming Bias. His publications during 2015 included “Decision Markets As Meta-Policy” in the book Reviving Economic Growth: Policy Proposals from 51 Leading Experts, and “A Tale of Two Transitions”, in the book The End of the Beginning: Life, Society and Economy on the Brink of the Singularity.
Ron Heiner continued his research on the evolution of cooperation, combining standard game theory with signal detection theory from behavioral psychology. He is currently writing a book titled Cooperation in Prisoners' Dilemmas: the Critical Case of One-Shot Interactions (World Scientific Press). During last year, Dr. Heiner solved certain problems that he had pursued over the last ten years. They involve a basic part of standard game theory.
In particular, standard game theory assumes individual players of a given type will behave in the same way. However, there may be individual differences that could affect the stability of behavior within a given sub-population. For example, one contingent cooperator might react to signals detected from its partner more cautiously than another contingent cooperator (thereby reducing its probability of cooperating).
More cautious contingent cooperators may also have higher expected payoff than less cautious ones (causing them to grow faster than less cautious ones), thereby destabilizing behavior within the contingently cooperative sub-population. This may eventually unravel to the point where all continent cooperators become totally cautious and never cooperate. The possibility of unraveling within a given sub-population can happen in many game theory models, representing an unresolved problem in the literature.
Dr. Heiner recently discovered how to generalize standard signal detection theory – to allow for simultaneously shifting signal distributions. This possibility has not been analyzed in the signal detection literature, which assumes players' signal distributions remain fixed as they vary their degree of caution in detecting signals.
The generalized signal detection analysis implies there will always exist a unique Nash equilibrium within the contingently cooperative sub-population: where all continent cooperators choose to be equally cautious in detecting signals from their partners. Hence, no continent cooperator can benefit from unilaterally becoming more cautious in detecting signals. The resulting stable Nash equilibrium among continent cooperators guarantees they will grow until they take over the whole population, eventually cooperating at the maximum frequency possible without being outperformed by always defecting players.
Dr. Heiner is now revising his book chapters to incorporate the generalized signal detection analysis and the new results for stable cooperation in one-shot prisoners' dilemmas.
Lisa Hill-Corley assists with the support of the main resident faculty at Carow Hall with administrative, visitor and office manager tasks. She also manages the main budget and grants for Center, and maintains the Center website. In addition, Lisa coordinates the graduate funding for all of the Economics Department.
Lisa also coordinated another successful Outreach Conference in June. This year's conference moved was again at the Hyatt Arlington in Rosslyn and welcomed thirty-five participants from eleven states and five countries.
She is grateful for the valuable administrative team of Mary Jackson and Julie Roberts who continue the tradition of excellence to Center and to graduate funding.
Noel Johnson continued to work on several projects in 2015. He presented his working paper “Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France” in Paris at the Banque de France in December. He also gave a version of this paper in South Africa at Stellenbosch University, and presented “Jewish Communities and City Growth in Preindustrial Europe (co-authored with Mark Koyama)” at American University. He also had the opportunity to work on “Bones, Bacteria and Break Points: The Effects of the Black Death on Urban Economic Development” with his co-authors Mark Koyama and Remi Jedwab. Finally, in addition to these projects, he and Mark Koyama finished the draft of our book on The Birth of Religious Freedom.
He continued to enjoy organizing the Public Choice Seminar during 2015, as well as serving as an organizer for the Washington Area Economic History Seminar, which meets once a month for outside speaker and brings together scholars from area universities. He also continued to run the Washington Area Economic History Workshop which brings together academics and grad students from around the world to present their work at twice yearly mini-conference.
Garett Jones published his first book and his first edited volume. His book Hive Mind: How your nation's IQ matters so much more than your own, published by Stanford University Press, and received substantial reviewer praise and media attention. Adam Ozimek of Forbes praised Hive Mind as “a model of non-fiction writing,” and the book was the subject of a Wall Street Journal “Word on the Street” column focusing just on the book's title.
Reviewing Hive Mind in the journal Intelligence, influential IQ researcher Stuart Ritchie writes, “As someone who is routinely baffled by the prolixity of economics texts, I found it hugely refreshing to read Jones's clear, engaging prose…[ Hive Mind ] is enormously more accessible and enjoyable than previous books on national IQ differences.” Finally, the Davos World Economic Forum published an article about Hive Mind, an article they included as one of their “Best of 2015.” The book is currently being translated into simplified Chinese.
His edited volume, Banking Crises: Perspectives from the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, grew out of his work as an associate editor for the New Palgrave Dictionary, the oldest and best-known encyclopedia of economics. His paper with R.W. Hafer, “Are entrepreneurship and cognitive skills related? Some international evidence,” was published in 2015 in Small Business Economics.
Mark Koyama worked on a number of projects in 2015. In particular, he made substantial progress on a new paper on impact of the Black Death on urban growth with Remi Jebwab (GWU) and Noel Johnson (GMU). He has also continued to work on existing papers with a number of coauthors.
In terms of publications, the main event was that Dr. Koyama's paper with Warren Anderson (Michigan, Dearborn) and Noel Johnson on the relationship between colder weather and the persecution of Jews in medieval Europe was accepted for publication in the Economic Journal.
Dr. Koyama presented his research at a number of universities and conferences in 2015. In January he was at the ASSA meeting in Boston where he jointly presented his paper with Chiu Yu Ko (NUS) and Tuan-Hwee Sng (NUS) entitled Unified China; Divided Europe . In the spring he participated in ASREC which was held in Boston, presenting his work with Melanie Meng Xue (UCLA) on the persecution of intellectuals in China and acting as a discussant for Enrico Spolaore's paper on the fertility transition in 19 th century Europe.
In April he gave the Fenwick Fellows Lecture at George Mason University on the topic of his book project with Noel Johnson. In May he was a workshop organizer for ESNIE in Corsica where he presented work on the state building in China and Europe and provided advice and feedback to a large number of graduate students from across the world. He was also invited to visit and present his research at Carlos III in Madrid.
In the Fall, Dr Koyama was a discussant at the Economic History Association Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. He presented work on the plague and city growth at the University of Michigan in October 2015.
He was also invited to participate in a workshop on the study of diversity and social interactions at the New Economic School in Moscow where he presented joint work with Noel Johnson (GMU) on the role Jewish communities played in stimulating urban growth in medieval and early modern Europe. In November he participated in a Conference on the significance of Magna Carta at the Classical Liberal Institute at NYU. The paper he presented will eventually be published in a special edition of the International Review of Law and Economics.
Dr. Koyama organized a session at the Social Science History Conference in Baltimore in November 2015 where Theresa Finley (GMU) presented joint work on the Black Death pogroms in the Holy Roman Empire and Melanie Meng Xue presented joined work on the persecution of intellectuals in China. Finally, Dr. Koyama was invited to Stanford University in December where he presented his joint work on the impact of the Black Death on urban growth in Europe from the middle ages to the industrial revolution.
Peter Leeson is the Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University. He is also North American Editor of Public Choice and a Senior Scholar of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
Dr. Leeson's work studies the economics of non-market decision making, in particular law and legal systems. He published numerous articles in 2015, such as “Institutionally Constrained Technology Adoption: Resolving the Longbow Puzzle” (with D. Allen) in the Journal of Law and Economics. Leeson's latest book, WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird (under contract with Stanford University Press), uses rational choice theory to explain the world's most bizarre and shocking social practices.
To follow his current work, press coverage of that work, or find his published papers, visit his personal website: www.PeterLeeson.com .
David Levy and co-author Sandra Peart had a year of transition in 2015. Their expert book—a decade in the making!—is scheduled by Cambridge University for fall 2016 publication. The better part of the year was spent making a book out of ideas and images. It has already received a fabulous preview in David Warsh's “Economic principles.”
Almost by accident, we find ourselves started on the next major project; a documentary history of the Virginia School. Last year, we published Warren Nutter's “Traveler's Tale of the Soviet Economy.” Doing some manuscript checking in the Gordon Tullock papers at the Hoover Institution, we discovered an appendix which he called “Flatland Revised” to his wonderful Organization of Inquiry. It was never been published, nor as far as we can discovered, discussed. This manuscript helps bring into focus his oft-stated debt to Ludwig von Mises's Human Action . We presented the manuscript at both the conference to remember Tullock's work at George Mason and at a panel of the History of Economics Society at the Allied Social Sciences meeting in San Francisco. The manuscript collation is completed and we know why it wasn't included in the published volume. We'll be sending it off for publication shortly.
This year, having benefited from seminar presentations at Duke and Rutgers last year, we presented a manuscript history of the difficulties that James Buchanan, Ronald Coase and Nutter of Thomas Jefferson Center at the University of Virginia had with the Ford Foundation at another panel of the History of Economics Society at the Allied Social Sciences meeting in San Francisco. We also presented this work as our Plenary Lecture the March Public Society meeting. Insight that we gained from studying Buchanan's correspondence with Kermit Gordon of the Ford Foundation was employed in our review essay on government failure in the Journal of Economic Literature.
We were asked to consider the counter-factual—what if Buchanan, Coase and Nutter had received the grant from Ford Foundation? We know from the grant application that plans were being made to develop a close working relationship between the Thomas Jefferson Center and Michael Polanyi. This was not just cheap talk since just a few months after the Center got the bad news from Ford, Polanyi gave a series of lectures at Center which would evolve into his Tacit Dimension. Anyone who listened Buchanan discuss his views with other economists will remember how he described the windows that economists look through. Moreover, he stressed that it was important to remember that our window is not the only one. The link between Buchanan's window and Polanyi's commitment is obvious although some work will need to be done to how a possible Buchanan-Polanyi extension could respond to critics of their separate contributions.His Adam Smith work continues. The presentations this year focus on group analytics. For Smith the problem of faction is far more difficult to overcome than the prisoner's dilemma of modern fame. One of the papers will be included in the Eastern Economic Journal's celebration of the 240 th anniversary of the publication of the Wealth of Nations. In this contribution we discuss how Smith deals with what we might call stereotype endogeneity in a way not available to neo-classical economics when the economics of stereotypes was developed in the early 1970s.
John Nye saw his edited volume, Institutions, Innovation, and Industrialization: Essays in Economic History and Development, (jointly with Lynne Kiesling and Avner Greif) appear from Princeton University Press in 2015. His paper on Benford's Law in economics and finance (joint with Charles Moul) was published as a chapter in S. Miller (ed.)'s Benford's Law: Theory and Applications , also from Princeton University Press.
He continued his joint research with a variety of scholars, most notably teams from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He also spoke at the RCI sponsored memorial conference in honor of the late Ronald Coase in March, 2015 and the paper “What do we really know about durable goods monopolies?” is scheduled to appear in Menard and Bertrand, eds. (2016) The Elgar Companion to Ronald Coase. He also served as a lecturer at workshops held in Moscow and Tel Aviv organized by RSSIA and the Ronald Coase Institute in 2015.
Thomas Stratmann worked on several projects in the Public Choice area during 2015. He designed a field experiment that allows to analyze the effectiveness of robocalls on voter turnout. Contrary to previous work in this area of research, his results show that robocalls are effective in increasing voter turnout. Thomas is also continuing his worn on experimental public choice, where he draws on the literature on altruistic punishment. Thomas shows that voters are willing to incur the cost of voting, simply to punish incumbents who did not keep their election promises. Thomas is also conducting research on analyzing the political economy of law enforcement. Here, he analyzes whether low enforcement is delivered unevenly, especially when cities experience fiscal distress. In this area of research, he quantifies whether minorities are more likely to be subject of police scrutiny.
In 2015, Stratmann published articles in areas of Public Choice and applied microeconomics. These articles include articles with David Hendregen “Adverse vs. Advantageous Selection in Life Insurance Markets”, in Economic Inquiry; with J.W. Verret “The Effect of Citizen United on Stock Returns” in The Journal of Law and Economics ; with Dan Houser and Sandra Ludwig “Does deceptive advertising reduce political participation? Theory and evidence” in Economic Inquiry; with Alexander Fink “U.S. housing prices and the Fukushima nuclear accident” in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization; with Adam Leive, “Do Cancer Screening Guidelines reduce Mortality?” in the Journal of Population Economics; and with Matt Mitchell “A Tragedy of the Anticommons: Local Option Taxation and Cell Phone Tax Bills” in Public Choice.
Yong Yoon completed his book Individualism and Political Disorder (with James M. Buchanan), which w a s published in November 2015 by Edward Elgar Publishing. For the book Roger Congleton wrote Foreword and Richard Wagner provided a blurb. The title suggests the book's theme that is in contrast and comparison to Hayek's book, Individualism and Economic Order.
He has been continuing working on two areas of his research agenda. One is Increasing Returns and the other is Anticommons. H is paper “ Buchanan on Increasing Returns and Anticommons” is under review by the journal Constitutional Public Economy. A n earlier version of the paper was presented at the Buchanan Memorial Conference at George Mason University in September 2013.
He published “Liberalism in Korea” (with Young B. Choi) in Econ Journal Watch, January of 2016.
He presented “Federalism and Anticommons” (with Richard Wagner) at the Eastern Economic Association meetings in Washington, D.C. in February 2016. He also presented his paper “The State as Jekyll and Hyde: Limits of Polycentric Adjustments,” at the Public Choice meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (March 2016).
Retired / Past Faculty and Staff
James Buchanan was the cofounder, along with Gordon Tullock, of public choice theory. Dr. Buchanan was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in economics for “his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision making.” Buchanan spent much of his academic career in Virginia with tenures at the University of Virginia; Virginia Tech, where he established the Center for Study of Public Choice; and here at George Mason University, where he served as the advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, and as a distinguished professor emeritus.
In her tenure at GMU, Jo Ann served as the Archivist/Librarian of the Buchanan House collection of Buchanan's papers, books and memorabilia. She also played an important role as the Center's Visiting Scholar Facilitator in administering and coordinating with the Office of International Programs and Services to secure appropriate paperwork and forms required for the visiting scholar's entrance into the United States. Jo Ann also served as the center's videographer, and captured many historic moments, such as the last debate between James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock in 2006 and Dr. Buchanan's last visit to Fairfax in 2012. She retired in the summer of 2014.
Jane Perry shared duties of providing administrative support to resident Carow Hall faculty, as well as for the daily admin operations and coordination of Carow Hall. She was a welcoming presence assisting faculty, staff, students, visiting scholars, and other visitors at the Center for Study of Public Choice.
Jane was the staff administrative and logistical coordinator for each of the weekly Public Choice Seminar Series presentations, held during the fall and spring semesters. Additionally, she assumed the duties of facilitating the visits of the Center's visiting scholars, upon the retirement of administrative colleague Jo Ann Burgess in 2014.
She served as the Center's resident proofreader, and her proofreading skills were increasingly in demand for various projects throughout the year, including numerous professional journal articles, book chapters, and other works authored by Center faculty.
Jane retired in the Spring of 2016.
Betty Hall Tillman worked for economist James Buchanan for 46 years. He hired her in July 1961 to work at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, VA. They later moved the center to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA and he took her with him. In 1983 they then moved the Center to GMU. Betty did not retire until 2007 at the age of 80. Known as the "First Lady of Public Choice." or "Momma Betty," she enjoyed making the Center a family atmosphere and was an inspiration to everyone who met her.