Fond Memories of Alchian and Tullock
I loved your discussion of your [DRH note: and Steve Globerman’s] new book on EconTalk. As someone who knows my Chicago background more than almost anyone you might enjoy the following remembrances.
From Chicago I joined the faculty of UVa (1970). This was just after Ronald Coase had left. As our last names are a bit similar I was actually confused for him once or twice (such an honor). While at UVa I wrote the teachers guide for their correspondent econ class for using Alchian and Allen’s University Economics (a truly great book). As a Californian I spent my summers at home in Bakersfield and was allowed to take the Chicago Core Exam at UCLA proctored by Sam Peltzman (an acquaintance from his earlier Chicago Libertarian days). When our little DC/VA group (which met at Henry Manne’s apartment) discussed Peltzman’s seat belt, padded dash article, Gordon Tullock offered that the most cost effective devise for safe driving would be a dagger in the middle of the steering wheel pointed at the driver.
Then Warren wrote a correction:
A correction due to my poor memory but due also to the close link between Paul Heyne’s The Economic Way of Thinking and Alchian and Allen’s University Economics. It was the former I wrote the work book for.
I replied that I had heard Tullock’s legendary proposal and that I was glad to see that it came after Sam Peltzman’s work. Peltzman’s work, incidentally, led my economist friend Jennifer Roback Morse to refer to him as “Seatbelt Sam.”
Then I added:
By the way, a funny story about Alchian and Heyne that Alchian told me in the late 1990s: Paul Heyne had contacted Alchian and told him that his and Allen’s book was great but too difficult for beginning undergrads. He asked Alchian if Alchian minded Heyne’s trying his hand at an easier version of the Alchian and Allen book. Alchian told Heyne that that’s not how it works: you don’t need a competitor’s permission to compete.
And thus was The Economic Way of Thinking born.
Note: The updated version of University Economics is Universal Economics, which Liberty Fund sells at a very low price.