VANBERG, Viktor J. (Biography)


August 12, 1943, Aachen, Germany Current Positions

Director, Walter Eucken Institut, Freiburg i.Br., Germany, 2001-; Professor of Economics, University of Freiburg i.Br., Germany, 1995-.

Past Positions

Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and Editorial Director, Center for Study of Public Choice, 1988-1995; Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and Research Associate, Center for Study of Public Choice, 1985-1988; Visiting Professor, Department of Economics, George Mason University, 1984-1985; Visiting Research Associate, Center for Study of Public Choice, 1983-1985; Visiting Professor, Sociology, University of Mannheim, Germany, 1981-1982; Visiting Professor, Sociology, University of Hamburg, Germany, 1976-1977; Research Associate/Academic Assistant, Department of Economics, University of Muenster, Germany, 1974-1983; Academic Assistant, University of Berlin (TU), 1968-1974.


Dipl.Soz., University of Muenster, Germany, 1968; Dr.Phil., University of Berlin (TU), Germany, 1974; Dr.Phil.Habil., University of Mannheim, Germany, 1981.

Editorial Duties

Joint Editor, Constitutional Political Economy, 1990-2001.

Principal Fields of Interest

Constitutional Political Economy; Evolutionary Economics.

Selected Publications


1. Die zwei Soziologien — Individualismus und Kollektivismus in der Sozialtheorie [The Two Sociologies — Individualism and Collectivism in Social Theory] (J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) 1975).

2. Markt und Organisation — Individualistische Sozialtheorie und das Problem Korporativen Handelns [Market and Organization — Individualist Social Theory and the Problem of Corporate Action] (J.B.C. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) 1982).

3. Rules and Choice in Economics (Routledge, 1994).

4. The Constitution of Markets — Essays in Political Economy (Routledge, 2001).


1. "Organization Theory and Fiscal Economics: Society, State, and Public Debt." Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2: 1986 (with J.M. Buchanan).

2. "Interests and Theories in Constitutional Choice." Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1: 1989 (with J.M. Buchanan).

3. "Rationality, morality and exit." American Poltical Science Review, 86 (June): 1992 (with Roger D. Congleton).

4. "Rational choice, rule-following and institutions: an evolutionary perspective." Rationality, Institutions and Economic Methodology, (Routledge 1993) (edited by B. Gustafson, C. Knudsen, U. Maki).

5. "Cultural evolution, collective learning and constitutional design," Economic Thought and Political Theory  (edited by D. Reisman).

6. "Globalization, democracy and citizens’ sovereignty: can competition among governments enhance democracy?" Constitutional Political Economy, 11:2000.

7. "Freiburg School of Law and Economics." The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law, Vol. 2 (Macmillan, 1998) (edited by P. Newman).

8. "Functional Federalism: Communal or Individual Rights?" Kyklos, 53:2000.

9. "Markets and the Law."

10. "Rational choice vs. program-based behavior: alternative theoretical approaches and their relevance for the study of institutions." Rationality and Society, 14: 2002.

Principal Contributions

Starting his academic career as a sociologist, Viktor Vanberg’s interest in the role of rules and institutions on the one side and his dissatisfaction with what went under the name of "sociological theory" on the other made him look for ways to combine the sociologists’ focus on the institutional dimension with the methodological individualism of theoretical economics. Vanberg’s early work is concerned with the history and the explanatory potential of an individualistic approach to social phenomena in general and to social norms and institutions in particular, drawing extensively on literature in the economic tradition of social theory (notably the work of F.A. Hayek) and seeking to extend the individualistic perspective from the study of marketlike spontaneous interaction to the study of organisations and corporate action. As the emergence of a new institu-tionalism in economics (including, in particular, public choice theory and other, related, approaches) provided a more hospitable environment for his ambitions than sociology, Vanberg very much welcomed the opportunity, offered to him by J.M. Buchanan in 1983, to join the Center for Study of Public Choice and to pursue research interests, henceforth, as an economist by academic affiliation. Vanberg’s main work since has been within the paradigm of constitutional political economy, initiated by Buchanan, seeking to clarify issues at the foundation of a constitutional economics approach — including its adequate behavioural foundation — and to explore its implications for economic policy. The focus of his ongoing research is on issues of constitutional choice and competition among constitutions on the national and international level, on the relation between the constitutional economics perspective and ethics, and on the paradigm of rule- or program-based behaviour as an alternative to the rational choice paradigm.

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