Essential UCLA School is Now Out
By David Henderson
Last year, fellow UCLAer Steve Globerman and I wrote a short book for Canada’s Fraser Institute on the distinctive UCLA school. It’s now out. We’re pretty proud of it. It’s part of Fraser’s series on particular economists and on schools of thought. The schools of thought books are harder to do because you have to decide whom to exclude or say little about.
The book is here.
Here are two paragraphs from Chapter 1:
The most important member of the School was Armen Alchian, who died in 2013. Alchian taught at UCLA from 1946 until his retirement in 1984. As you will see throughout this volume, Alchian’s insights and writings underlie a distinctive theme of the School’s approach to economics: in most productive activity, the profit motive, combined with private property rights, successfully aligns the interests of producers and consumers, often in subtle ways.
As Susan Woodward, a former graduate student of Alchian’s, has noted, Alchian had no use for formal models that did not teach us to look somewhere new in the known world. Nor had he any patience for findings that relied on fancy statistical procedures. Alchian saw basic economics as a powerful tool for explaining much of human behaviour in both market and non-market settings. Much of Alchian’s work was guided by the insight: “You tell me the rules and I’ll tell you what outcomes to expect.” As Woodward has noted, Alchian believed that a huge amount of human behaviour could be understood if one got straight what the property rights (i.e., the rules) were.
The chapters are:
- What was the UCLA School?
- Can Property Rights Help Us Understand People’s Actions and Even Reduce Conflict?
- How the Profit Motive Reduces Racial and Other Discrimination.
- When Do Property Rights Come About?
- Firms Exist to Solve Problems.
- The Nirvana Approach.
- Does the High Market Share of a Few Companies Imply Market Power?
- Regulation: The Economics of Unintended Consequences.
- Do Firms Need to Maximize for the Model to Fit?
- Can Economies Recover Quickly from Disaster?
- Concluding Comments.
The pic above is of Armen Alchian. When I post on other UCLA economists’ work, I’ll use their pictures.