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Edited by Ross B. Emmett
Chapter 19: Jacob Viner
William J. Barber Jacob Viner (1892–1970), one of the most respected economists of his time, was born in Canada and received his early education there. After graduating from McGill University in 1914, he began graduate work at Harvard. In 1916, he was appointed to an instructorship in Chicago’s Department of Political Economy as the last member to be recruited by J. Laurence Laughlin, the Department’s Head Professor since its founding. Service with the United States Tariff Commission interrupted his teaching from 1917 to 1919. While in Washington, he worked under the supervision of his Harvard mentor, Frank W. Taussig. Viner was awarded a Harvard PhD in 1922 with a dissertation on ‘Canada’s balance of international indebtedness, 1900–1913’. This study received the coveted David A. Wells Prize and soon thereafter appeared in book form (Viner 1924). The analysis Viner offered is still regarded as a classic in the pure theory of international adjustment. Meanwhile he progressed through the ranks at Chicago, achieving a full professorship in 1925. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1924. Though Viner regarded international trade to be his primary professional specialism, he also made innovative contributions to price theory. In a brief essay entitled ‘Price policies: the determination of market price’, he set out the conceptual framework for the doctrines of monopolistic (and imperfect) competition that were to be elaborated a decade later by E.H. Chamberlin and Joan Robinson (Viner 1921 ). In 1931, he produced a novel demonstration of the behavior of long-run...
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