Libertarian Scholar, Life-Long Writer

Author and Libertarian Scholar James L. Payne photo

Political scientist James L. Payne has spent a lifetime carrying out on-site research in the social and policy world, beginning in 1961 when, as an undergraduate at Oberlin College, he made a year-long visit to Peru and travelled its country to interview labor leaders for his book, published by Yale University Press, Labor and Politics in Peru (1965). Extended research in other Latin American countries produced books on Colombia (1968) and the Dominican Republic (1972). Interviews with state and local politicians identifed different personality types, reported in The Motivation of Politicians (1984). His works on social science methodology include Principles of Social Science Measurement (1975) and Foundations of Empirical Political Analysis (1984).

After 20 years as an academic political scientist — at Yale, Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins, and Texas A&M — Payne left his tenured professorship to become an independent scholar. In 1986-1996, he researched the U.S. budgetary process, interviewing administrators and lawmakers, and participating in five congressional hearings. This research supported two books, The Culture of Spending (1991) and Costly Returns; The Burdens of the U.S. Tax System (1994). In following years, he explored public and private welfare programs around the U.S. for his book Overcoming Welfare (1998).

For many years, Payne has contributed to conservative and libertarian publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Reason, The Freeman, National Review, Liberty, Policy Review, and Public Interest.

In his downtime, Payne enjoys writing travel memoirs about his solo kayak journeys on rivers in the U.S. and around the world, resulting in engaging tales of culture, history, and political philosophy. His most recent travel adventure book, Chasing Thoreau: An Adventure in Paddling Philosophy, describes Thoreau's historic voyage up the Merrimac River as a nascent exploration in individualism and libertarian principles. More of Payne's books can be found at »»