Here are my two favorite Gordon Tullock stories, filtered through my admittedly imperfect memory.

Story #1

It’s the summer of 1993.  Gordon Tullock gives a guest seminar for interns at the Institute for Humane Studies.  A random democratic failure comes up, and one of the interns suggests James Buchanan’s favorite panacea: “Change the constitution.” 

I guardedly (yes, guardedly) say: “With all due respect to Professor Tullock, I can’t understand why we should expect constitutional politics to work any less badly than day-to-day politics.”

Tullock doesn’t skip a beat.  “You’re right, of course.  I’ve never been able to figure out why Jim thinks otherwise.  Next question.”

[To be fair, Jim does have a drawn-out Veil of Ignorance argument for his view, but it’s contrived and implausible – as he once all but admitted.]

Story #2

Fast forward to the early 2000s.  Both Tullock and I are now professors at GMU.  As you may have heard, Tullock often expressed affection with bizarre insults.  After six months, he had yet to speak a word against me.  I naturally start to wonder if he dislikes me.  All doubt vanishes, though, during a post-seminar dinner with me, Tullock, and Donald Wittman.  Tullock is recounting one of his many lessons on Chinese history, ending with, “Chiang Kai-shek was a butcher, but he wasn’t as bad as Hitler or Stalin.”

Then Tullock stares right at me and says, “You’re as bad as Hitler or Stalin.  But not Chiang Kai-shek.”

I furrow my brow, then remember that for Tullock, the greater and more random the insult, the deeper the affection.  I can’t recall if I actually said or merely thought, “I love you, too, Gordon.”

And if this makes no sense to you, you didn’t know Tullock!