Armen Alchian

Armen Alchian has died. Alchian was both clever and wise, an unusual combination. His 1950 paper Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory applied basic insights from evolutionary theory to suggest new approaches to economic ideas.  Alchian, particularly with Demsetz, began the analysis of property rights not only what property rights do but how they evolve with changing circumstances (the link goes to Alchian’s entry on this topic in the CEE). Alchian’s textbook with Allen, University Economics which became Exchange and Production, is a classic; never a bestseller among students but avidly read by masters. The Alchian-Allen theorem, sometimes called the third law of demand, continues to bedevil theorists despite its simplicity. I am a fan of his paper Costs and Outputs which generalized some ideas about production and time and inspired Fisher Black.  I never met Alchian but have always profited from reading his papers and I was truly grateful and also thrilled when he blurbed my book Entrepreneurial Economics. Fred McChesney has a good appreciation including Alchian’s pioneering event study which was suppressed for national security reasons; Bob Higgs remembers Alchian’s legendary class at UCLA and here is Larry White interviewing William Allen about A Life Among the Econ his memoir of UCLA economics during its glory years.

You can find all of these works and more in Alchian’s Collected Works.


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