Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. His research addresses economic and philosophical aspects of justice between generations, and he is particularly interested in policies that affect budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs, and Social Security.

Columns by Neil H. Buchanan
Three Threats to Future Generations: Should COVID-19 Change Our Thinking About Climate Disaster or the End of Democracy?

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers whether the current COVID-19 pandemic changes the way we think about the ongoing crises of climate catastrophe and the escalating threats to the rule of law. Perhaps counterintuitively, Professor Buchanan concludes that neither this pandemic nor even the threat of future pandemics changes how we should think about our obligations to future generations because nothing about it requires our focus to the exclusion of those two existing threats.

Only the Most Extreme Debt Ceiling Insanity Could Turn the ‘Big Coin Option’ into the Least-Bad Choice: So, Be Prepared!

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to proposals that the so-called Big Coin option could alleviate the debt ceiling crisis. Professor Buchanan argues that this option, by which the Treasury would mint a platinum coin and designate its value at some arbitrarily high number to allow the government to continue paying its bills, is likely not the best solution to the contrived problem of debt ceiling.

The “Americans Are Not Deadbeats Act”: Republicans Have Given Democrats a Gilded Political Path to Killing the Debt Ceiling

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Democrats have a clear path to eliminating the debt ceiling crisis once and for all. Professor Buchanan explains that the Democrats should employ the so-called Gephardt Rule, under which the debt ceiling is increased automatically as part of every taxing and spending bill that Congress passes.

Why Do We Continue to Use Loaded Words Even When We Know that They Have No Meaning?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explores the frequent phenomenon where people fall back on empty words and phrases, even when they have been convinced that those phrases are empty. Professor Buchanan relates some anecdotes demonstrating the phenomenon and calls for people to relearn and remember when they are saying words that communicate nothing, lest they lapse into reinforcing meaninglessness.

Dear Young People: You WANT Congress to Kick the Can Down the Road on Social Security

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why there is not an impending Social Security crisis, and in fact, anything Congress might do over the next decade or so in response to this nonexistent crisis will actually make matters worse, especially for young people themselves. Professor Buchanan describes why and how journalists misunderstand the Social Security Trustees’ 2021 annual report and argues that if Congress reacts by changing Social Security, it would essentially guarantee that today’s young people would be harmed, even if the Trustees’ forecasts turn out to be wrong.

A Strange Type of Federalism Awaits Us in Republicans’ Upcoming One-Party Autocracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers the future of federalism when Republicans have forced the United States into a one-party autocracy. Professor Buchanan argues that while conservatives have long claimed to favor states’ rights, they will be unlikely to support states’ rights when Republicans control the federal government and are insulated from competition.

Statehood for D.C. Could Not Be Reversed

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why, if the District of Columbia was recognized as a state, that recognition cannot later be reversed. Professor Buchanan argues that to reverse statehood would signal a slippery slope wherein Republicans would be empowered to go well beyond suppressing votes in swing states to instead removing statehood from regions with Democratic voters.

Dead Democracy Walking

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan describes the United States today as a “dead democracy walking”—walking with mortal wounds but not yet dead. While stating that he is open to the possibility of being proven wrong, Professor Buchanan explains why believes that Trump and Republicans have corrupted the American political system beyond repair, and he notes that his subsequent writings and analysis will proceed from the assumption that democracy will soon be dead in this country.

The Worst Sequel of 2021: “Debt Ceiling Zombies Attack!”

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the (again) impending debt ceiling crisis if Senate Republicans (again) do not adjust the federal debt ceiling by the end of this month. Professor Buchanan reiterates the reasons the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and calls upon President Biden to instruct the Treasury Department to pay all bills in full, using exactly as much borrowed money as Congress’s duly enacted laws require, and to immediately announce that he will do so.

The Intensifying Madness on America’s Political Right: A Decade-Long Perspective

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan reflects on the evolution of America’s political right over the past decade, from his first Verdict column almost exactly ten years ago to today. Professor Buchanan points out that his first column discussed the problem of the debt-limit crisis, which he argues was a portent for Republicans’ abandonment of ideas, now turning instead to stoking cultural clashes and fomenting grievances.

Go Ahead and Cancel Me, You Erasing, Censorious Silencers; Also . . . Woke!

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan argues that the terms “cancel culture,” “wokeness,” and the like have come to mean only that the person using them does not like something that is being said or done. Professor Buchanan describes how these epithets are simply today’s (much more quickly adopted) versions of the 1990’s political correctness and “PC police”—all political tools for claiming victimhood.

Will Biden Finally Neuter Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Demagoguery?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to apparent plans by some Republicans to bring back the debt ceiling to obstruct the Biden administration. Professor Buchanan explains why that would be a bad idea and also why, if they do, President Biden might be able to kill the debt ceiling as a political issue.

Investing in Our Future: Labels vs. Substance in the Infrastructure Debate

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why President Biden’s infrastructure spending bill is inexpensive and necessary, given the long-term positive effects of such spending. Professor Buchanan puts the two-trillion-dollar price tag into context and argues that we actually need much more public investment than that.

There Are Many Different Ways to Lose Our Democracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan describes the precarious situation of our democracy and notes that there are many necessary conditions for a constitutional republic to continue to operate, and because each is necessary, losing any of them would lead to the whole system crashing down. In this column, Professor Buchanan points out some of the many ways in which our nation could descend into autocracy.

Reforming Presidential Pardons: Possible and Necessary, but How High a Priority?

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is not only possible and necessary to reform the president’s constitutional pardon power, but why doing so should be a high priority. Professor Buchanan argues that preventing future abuses of the pardon is critical to preventing its use as a tool of autocracy.

It Is Possible and Necessary to Nullify Trump’s Corrupt Pardons (Including Secret Ones)

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan argues that it is not only constitutional but necessary to review and nullify corrupt presidential pardons, including many of those granted by former President Trump. Professor Buchanan debunks the misconception that the presidential pardon power is “unlimited” as journalists have assumed, based on the language and context of the Pardon Clause and that of a seminal Supreme Court case interpreting it.

Would Senate Republicans Abandon Their Baseless Arguments if There Were a Secret Ballot?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether a secret ballot is a good idea, or even permissible, in former President Trump’s impeachment trial. Professor Buchanan ultimately takes no position on the question of a secret ballot, suggesting that it might simply be an easy way out for Senate Republicans; he argues that what matters most is that the trial go forward, revealing an open-and-shut case against Donald Trump.

Impeaching a Former President Is Plainly Constitutional

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the text of the Constitution makes clear that Congress has the power to impeach and convict Donald Trump, even though he is no longer President. Buchanan describes the unambiguous textual support for this conclusion, which Buchanan (and others) argue is also amply supported by the Constitution’s purpose, structure, and other interpretive approaches.

Trump’s Coup Failed, But He Gave Republicans a Road Map to Ending Constitutional Democracy…Soon

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that although Trump’s coup failed, Republicans now have in front of them all of the building blocks necessary to impose one-party rule in the United States within the next four years. In this first of a series of columns, Professor Buchanan describes but a few of the available options Republicans have to rig elections in their favor.