The economics faculty at George Mason University is noted for the multi-disciplinary orientation its members bring to bear on their scholarship. While economic theory resides at the core of that scholarship, a good deal of that scholarship makes significant contact with such other fields of study as politics, sociology, history, philosophy, and law. The field exams we offer illustrate some of this breadth, which the opportunity we offer for students to design an individualized field amplifies.
Much of that scholarly breadth is carried on through three organized research programs: Austrian economics, public choice, and experimental economics, with these programs listed in the chronological order in which they became part of research program at George Mason.
Austrian economics has its roots in the unique approach to economic theory associated with Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek, but the central feature of Austrian economics at Mason is on the study of economic systems as continually in developmental motion, as conveyed by the notion of emergent dynamics. A good deal of Mason’s scholarship in Austrian economics operates through the Program on Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, directed by Professor Peter Boettke.
Public choice is often characterized as Virginia Political Economy out of recognition that the roots of public choice can be traced to the scholarly efforts of two eminent Virginia scholars: Nobel Laureate James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, both of whom served on the faculty of the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech before joining George Mason. Public choice is the integrated study of political economy that gives particular recognition to the analysis of alternative constitutional frameworks. A good deal of Mason’s scholarship in public choice operates through the Center for the Study of Public Choice, directed by Professor Alex Tabarrok.
Experimental economics represents the effort to bring the experimental method that has long been employed to good effect in the natural sciences to bear on the study of economics. Experimental economics received its start at Mason in 2000 with the arrival of the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, led by Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith. While Smith has retired from Mason, the centrality of experimental economics to the economics scholarship at Mason has continued, with ICES now directed by Professor Daniel Houser.