The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian

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Armen Alchian has helped found several schools of economic thought and is the founder of the UCLA tradition in economics and one of the most influential voices in the areas of market structure, property rights, and the theory of the firm. His career has spanned seven decades, with a stint in the military during World War II. Alchian has left an indelible mark on economics and has taught and inspired generations of students.

Liberty Fund is proud to present, in two volumes, The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian, bringing together Alchian’s most influential essays, articles, editorials, and lectures to provide a comprehensive record of his thinking on a broad range of topics in economics. As various and as specific as some of this collection’s topics are, they are unified, as editor Daniel K. Benjamin writes, by both a coherent methodology for doing economics, and a view of the world that celebrates the importance of individual liberty.” Benjamin goes on to state that, in Alchian’s view, the purpose of theory is never theory in and of itself; it is instead to help individuals understand the world around them.”

The first of two volumes, Choice and Cost under Uncertainty, is a collection of Alchian’s major scholarly articles, some short papers published in nontechnical periodicals, and some monographs from his years at the RAND Corporation. These papers range over topics from the energy crises to linear progress curves, yet all focus on the effect of the individual on markets and costs through various decision-making processes. This volume also presents Alchian’s unique work on the effects of inflation.

The second volume of this collection, Property Rights and Economic Behavior, focuses on Alchian’s merging of law and economics, in particular the economics of property rights. Here Alchian, with assistance from Ronald Coase and Harold Demsetz, expands upon the economic rationale behind property rights and demonstrates that these are not distinct from human rights but rather are integral to them. These seminal works go against the grain of conventional wisdom, pointing out among other things the lack of wealth-maximization objectives in various levels of government and nonprofit organizations. Alchian’s powerful economic methodology resists the tide, for the sake of the individual and hence for all of society.

As these volumes vividly illustrate, Armen Alchian has transformed the way economists think about the world. He is responsible, for example, for some of the earliest work on the economics of property rights, showing how governments and nonprofit organizations can be understood with the same tools that are applied to the private sector. He has also demonstrated the crucial importance of legal institutions in shaping economic decisionmaking and laid the foundations for the modern understanding of the business firm. Testimony to the scope and depth of Alchian’s work is that his papers continue to be influential decades after their initial publication.

Armen A. Alchian is Professor Emeritus of Economics at UCLA.

Daniel K. Benjamin is Professor of Economics at Clemson University.

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Armen A. Alchian is Professor Emeritus of Economics at UCLA and in the course of his long and accomplished career helped to found several schools of economic thought, being justifiably considered by his peers to be one of the most influential voices in the areas of market structure, property rights, and the theory of the firm. Complete in two volumes, The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian is professionally edited and provided with an informative introduction by Daniel K. Benjamin who drew upon Professor Alchian's most important essays, articles, editorials, and lectures to provide a comprehensive and detailed record of this thought on a broad range of topics in the field of economics. Volume One focuses upon the economic themes of "Choice and Cost Under Certainty"; Volume Two deals with "Property Rights and Economic Behavior" issues. The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian: Volumes 1 & 2 is also available in a hardcover edition (0865976368, $30.00), and very strongly recommended for professional and academic library Economics Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Midwest Book Review
January 2007

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