The Center for Study of Public Choice, a unique research institution at George Mason University, provides a single location where eminent scholars conduct innovative research, publish their findings and conclusions in a variety of print and electronic media, and teach the science of public choice. Under the current leadership of Dr. Alex Tabarrok, the Center builds on the groundbreaking economic and political science theories for which Buchanan was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. The Center draws both visiting and resident scholars and students from all over the world. Its faculty and researchers lecture and conduct seminars locally, across the United States, and abroad.
The Center serves as the institutional home for the Public Choice Research Program, which has developed and matured over the past half-century. Created in 1957 at the University of Virginia, the Center was initially called the Thomas Jefferson Center for Studies in Political Economy. In 1969, the Center was reconstituted at Virginia Tech under its present name. In 1983, the Center shifted its operations to George Mason University. The Center's alumni include 148 doctoral students from George Mason, 113 from Virginia Tech, and 109 from the University of Virginia. From its historical association with three of Virginia's major universities, the Center's academic footprint is often dubbed the "Virginia School of Political Economy."
Public Choice scholarship has profoundly influenced thinking in the scientific community and the formation of public attitudes. Economics traditionally focuses on the behavior of firms and consumers and how individuals interact in market settings. As a research program, public choice extends the tools of economics to analyze the behavior of voters, candidates, legislators, bureaucrats, judges, and so on. Research by scholars at the Center also focuses on other non-market institutions such as religion, the family, clubs, and culture. The Center occasionally directly funds projects but does not pay overhead costs.