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Gordon Tullock’s Generosity

Summary:
One of the delights I had on my trip to Boise State University last week was getting to know my host Allen Dalton, an adjunct economics professor at BSU. Besides having great economics discussions, we had good discussions, mainly positive, about various economists we know in common. One positive story stands out. Allen started as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA when James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were still there. One day in 1977, early in his time at VA Tech, he got a message to see Tullock right away. Tullock offered to pay him a week to go through the newspaper once a week and record the closing prices of shares in about 10 or so  companies whose shares Tullock owned. This seemed like a no-brainer. Allen would have to buy a newspaper

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Gordon Tullock’s Generosity

One of the delights I had on my trip to Boise State University last week was getting to know my host Allen Dalton, an adjunct economics professor at BSU. Besides having great economics discussions, we had good discussions, mainly positive, about various economists we know in common.

One positive story stands out. Allen started as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA when James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were still there. One day in 1977, early in his time at VA Tech, he got a message to see Tullock right away. Tullock offered to pay him $25 a week to go through the newspaper once a week and record the closing prices of shares in about 10 or so  companies whose shares Tullock owned. This seemed like a no-brainer. Allen would have to buy a newspaper for 25 cents once a week and would have to spend less than half an hour. That’s an hourly wage of $50. I don’t even need to do an inflation adjustment to tell you that that’s a high number. But I will anyway. It’s about $193 today. Per hour!

Towards the end of that year, one of Allen’s graduate student colleagues, who was a year ahead of Allen, told him that he shouldn’t expect the same deal the next year. This other student explained that he had had that deal the year before Allen, and it appeared that each year Tullock chose a promising student who badly needed the money and helped him out.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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