March 28, 2006


The Secret of George Mason: What its Final Four basketball team and its unusual economics department have in common (Peter Boettke and Alexander Tabarrok, Slate, 3/28/06)

Unlike his neighbors, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, founding father George Mason has rarely gotten his props from historians and the public. Until recently, the same could be said of the university bearing his name. But the advancement of Mason's basketball team to the NCAA's Final Four is only the school's latest surprise win. The GMU economics department—which didn't even award Ph.D.s until 1983—has two Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. The law school ascended to the first tier several years ago, a striking achievement for a new program that 10 years ago was being run out of an old department-store building. What's remarkable is that GMU's freewheeling basketball team and its free-market academic teams owe their successes to very similar, market-beating strategies....

James Buchanan, GMU's first Nobel Prize winner, has never had an Ivy League position and indeed he has never taught above the Mason-Dixon Line. Gordon Tullock, a potential future Nobelist, has no degree in economics and took only one class in the subject. Vernon Smith, who moved his team from the University of Arizona (again, no Harvard) to GMU in 2001, had to fight to get people to treat experimental economics as more than a cute parlor game.

In the academic market, herd behavior is compounded by political correctness. In the 1960s, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were joined at the University of Virginia by Ronald Coase (who would later win his own Nobel). But the university administration and powerful organizations like the Ford Foundation thought their free-market ideas (limited government, tax cuts, selling radio spectrum!) were disreputable, and they worked hard to push them out of the university.

I'd love to bet on George Mason, but I'm worried that the bench is too thin. And that's just the Economics Department.

Posted by David Cohen at March 28, 2006 8:54 PM

A couple more rate hikes, and maybe they can get unemployment up and wages down (and inflation to less than zero! Yay!!!) just in time for the election.

I hope that I never discover, during some annual physical, that I have developed the wizened heart of a banker. I would immediately find it necessary to teach those Whos down in Whoville a real lesson, and that's just not right.

Posted by: HT at March 28, 2006 10:04 PM

Well, the comment above was supposed to be on the Fed thread below. Have no idea how it wound up here. I'm sure it's my fault, though. Mea culpa.

Posted by: HT at March 28, 2006 10:25 PM


No, I blame President Bush. :-)

Posted by: Rick T. at March 29, 2006 10:24 AM

As far as basketball goes, the thin bench matters much less now than during the regular season. Why? Because there is an automatic TV timeout every 4 minutes of game time, so you get tons of rest. So exhaustion is not as much of a factor. Foul trouble may still be an issue, but only LSU has a powerful enough frontcourt to potentially cause problems there.

Posted by: b at March 29, 2006 11:53 AM

All SEC final.

Posted by: h-man at March 29, 2006 4:01 PM