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Chicagonomics: The Evolution of Chicago Free Market Economics Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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**One of BloombergView's "Five Books That Put Some Life in the Dismal Science"**
“Chicagonomics, a new book by Lanny Ebenstein, a prolific author on the history of economic thought, sets out to investigate the history of the Chicago school of economics, to see what can be learnt for today from its past...deserves to be read by all those with an interest in economic policy." ―The Economist
“Ebenstein, the son of a political scientist who taught briefly at the University of Chicago, has written 10 books on economic and political history ... With this book, he joins a group of detractors of modern-day American conservatism who are sympathetic to many of the ideas of conservatism but harshly critical of how it is now practiced.” ―New York Times Book Review
“For better or for worse, and it has been some of both, economics at the University of Chicago has had an immense impact on the profession and on the world. This important book tells that very important story in a lively and entertaining way.” ―Lawrence Summers, Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton, Former President of Harvard
“I have learned much from your book and I congratulate you for doing a fine bit of work. I especially appreciate what you wrote about Hayek.” ―Lester Telser, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Chicago
“Chicagoeconomics has had a profound impact on economic science. This accessible and enjoyable book tells the story starting from its origins. Readers will discover that chicagoeconomics is richer and more nuanced than its cliche image of market fundamentalists.” ―Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley
“A detailed argument and an absorbing narrative combine in this important contribution to the field.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Well-written and useful. You can read about Henry Simons, the Cowles Commission, Hayek, Jacob Marschak, of course Milton Friedman, and much more.” ―Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University
“A lively and comprehensive study.” ―Sam Fleischacker, Director of Jewish Studies, University of Illinois-Chicago
“Chicagonomics provides a helpful corrective to the common perception that there is a unified and cohesive ‘Chicago School’” ―Wall Street Journal
“...Offers a comprehensive and noteworthy examination of the University of Chicago's influence on economic theory in the U.S… accessible, clear, and entertaining.” ―Publisher's Weekly
About the Author
LANNY EBENSTEIN is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics at UCSB, teaching the history of economic and political thought. From 1990 to 1998, Dr. Ebenstein was an elected member of the Santa Barbara Board of Education. He has written ten books on the history of economic and political thought, including the first biographies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. His work is frequently cited in publications from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives, and has been translated into a number of foreign languages. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA.
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Especially useful was Ebenstein's convincing distinction between the writings of Simons, Knight, and Viner, described as classical liberals, and the eventual Chicago School dated to 1946 when Milton Friedman joined the faculty. I.e., there was no School before Friedman's move to Chicago. Also of interest was the distinction between Friedman the academic economist, for which he won a Nobel Prize, and Friedman the public intellectual whose work became increasingly libertarian as he grew older. In addition, Ebenstein provides useful perspective on the role that Hayek's ideas played at Chicago. It was interesting to see how much support each of these writers gave to progressive income taxation at various, usually early, stages of their lives.
Ebenstein has made me eager to learn more and provides a lengthy Bibliographical Essay to use. In particular, he has left me wanting to know more about classical liberalism both historically and in its current expression. To a certain extent Ebenstein does this in the Conclusion, which lays out 13 public policies that should be implemented in the U.S. at this time. Still, I fail to see how these policies relate to a systematic view of classical liberalism. That, in itself, would be an interesting book to read. Perhaps Lanny Ebenstein will now write it.
This book's major weakness is it's over-emphasis on Hayek. Hayek is in no way even a marginally influential figure in the Chicago School. He is more a philosopher than an economist. Gary Becker, a true intellectual giant and a more moderate libertarian (Becker supports strict regulation in banking, for example), is completely missed out. A mention of Jim Heckman, who is still around on the Hyde Park campus, is a wonderful part of the book, but only a few pages. In conclusion, the book is good for less serious readers who have misunderstood Chicago Economics as radical libertarianism, but for the more serious readers this book is not comprehensive enough as an introduction for Chicago economics.
Also impressive is his suggested reading list, which has at least a hundred book recommendations. Any student of this subject should read this book.