Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and numerous economics courses. His research addresses the long-term tax and spending patterns of the federal government, focusing on budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs, and Social Security. He also is engaged in a long-term research project that asks how current policy choices should be shaped by concerns for the interests of future generations.

Professor Buchanan has held permanent or visiting positions at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, NYU School of Law, and Cornell Law School. Prior to attending law school, Professor Buchanan was an economics professor, specializing in macroeconomics, the history of economic thought, and economic methodology. He has held full-time faculty positions in economics at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Barnard College, Goucher College, and Wellesley College.

Professor Buchanan has published articles in the Columbia Law Review, the George Washington Law Review, NYU’s Tax Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Virginia Tax Review, and the Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy, as well as other law reviews and refereed social science periodicals. He has also testified before Congress about issues related to tax reform. He publishes twice weekly on the legal blog “Dorf on Law,” and he is a featured columnist on Newsweek's Opinion page.

Columns by Neil H. Buchanan

The Road Show Blaming Teachers for Society’s Ills Moves from California to New York

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan discusses a recent ruling by a California superior court judge striking down that state’s tenure system for public school teachers. Buchanan explains why the ruling lacks adequate basis and argues that tenure is actually an essential part of attracting and retaining talented teachers.

Airplane Seatbacks, the Coase Theorem, and Simplistic Solutions to Difficult Questions

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the minor nationwide debate over reclining one’s seat on an airplane. Buchanan argues that one reporter’s claim that the debate is “an excellent case study for the Coase Theorem” manifests a fundamental (yet common) misunderstanding of that theorem.

Message to Young People: Social Security Will Be There For You, Unless You Let Wall Street Take It Away From You

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan argues against the notion that Social Security will “go broke” before today’s workers retire. Buchanan discusses the origins of the idea—including disinformation campaigns by opponents of Social Security—and explains why the is unfounded, as long as people continue to support the program politically.

Does Hobby Lobby All But Require Companies to Find Religion?

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., particularly whether it effectively compels all companies to adopt beliefs to increase profits and fulfill their fiduciary duties to their owners. Buchanan predicts that either we will see an increasing number of companies take this route to maximize profits, or we will want to investigate why more companies are not pursuing this attractive route to free market salvation.

Why Laffer Lingers: Tax Cut Snake Oil Is Still for Sale

George Washington law professor and economist Neil Buchanan explains why large numbers of people continue to believe erroneously that tax cuts result in greater tax revenues. Buchanan argues that the only real-life examples that seem to support the notion are cherry-picked and anecdotal evidence. He concludes that the claim that tax cuts are self-financing is only barely plausible as a matter of logic, and it has been disproven over and over again by both conservative and liberal economists alike.

The Real Problems of Poverty and Inequality Exist Today, Not Decades or Generations From Now: Part Two of a Two-Part Series on Income Mobility and Inequality

In this second of a two-part series of columns on income mobility, George Washington law professor and economist Neil Buchanan explains why we should focus on reducing economic inequality today. Buchanan warns that our focus should not be on the increased rate at which economic inequality is growing, but on its very existence. He argues that even if inequality were gradually abating on its own, as some have postulated, inactively waiting for it to do so would continue to allow millions of people to suffer the pain of poverty until that distant and hypothetical time arrives.

Poor, Rich, and Very Little Movement in Between: Part One of a Two-Part Series on Income Mobility and Inequality

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan critiques the argument that income mobility adequately addresses the issue of economic inequality. Buchanan contends that supporters of the mobility argument rely on a theory of mobility that disregards the reality of the permanent effects that poverty has on people. In a companion column next week, Buchanan will discuss where the arguments that Professor Piketty offered in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century fit into the arguments over inequality, mobility, and redistribution.

A Conservative Law Professor Points the Way Out of the IRS Scandal-That-Never-Was

Neil Buchanan, a law professor and economist at George Washington University Law School, critiques the so-called IRS scandal of 2013 and one conservative law professor’s persistent attempts to paint it as something it is not. Buchanan explains why the story never amounted to a scandal at all and posits that a recent op-ed by that professor arguing otherwise undermines the reputation of that that professor’s blog as a nonpartisan source of tax-related news.

Freedom, Taxes, and Forced Labor: A Strange Brew of Libertarianism and Marxism

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan sharply critiques the notion of “Tax Freedom Day” and the underlying idea that paying taxes constitutes forced servitude to the government. Buchanan describes the origins of that line of thinking and explains why, if taken to its logical conclusion, it makes no sense.

Destroying Our Universities by Turning Us Against Ourselves

Justia columnist, George Washington University law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan discusses the imminent threats to the university as an institution. Buchanan describes how anti-intellectualism, political opportunism, and short-sightedness are putting American greatness at risk. Finally, he highlights some of the myths and truths about tenure and its role in perpetuating the university’s role in society.

The False Choice of Old Versus Young in American Budgetary Politics

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan debunks the common claim that we spend too much money on seniors and too little on children. Conservatives and “centrist” Democrats claim that, because of this supposed disparity, Social Security and Medicare are too generous and must be cut. In fact, Buchanan explains, our country puts a lot more of its resources into children than we generally understand, but most of it is hidden from view.

The Dignity of Work Without End: Do Conservatives Really Want People Never to Retire?

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan points out important advantages of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For instance, the ACA's decoupling of work and health insurance frees workers who had stayed in their positions simply because they needed the health insurance, rather than changing jobs and/or enjoying some leisure or time with family and friends. Buchanan suggests that freedom-loving conservatives ought to applaud that new freedom which the ACA creates. In addition, on a more theoretical level, Buchanan explains how, in his view, the imbroglio over the CBO’s report exposed the arbitrariness of conservative economics.

The Short, Unhappy Life of a Republican Attack Line, and Its Angry Aftermath

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan thoroughly debunks the oft-cited Republican claim that Obamacare will “kill” millions of jobs. Moreover, Buchanan points to some of the important pluses of Obamacare, such as the end of “job lock,” which occurs when a worker is stuck in a job he or she wants to leave, but cannot do so due to the fear of losing his or her health insurance.