The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics
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The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics

Edited by Ross B. Emmett

Many know the Chicago School of Economics and its association with Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase and Gary Becker. But few know the School’s history and the full scope of its scholarship. In this Companion, leading scholars examine its history and key figures, as well as provide surveys of the School’s contributions to central aspects of economics, including: price theory, monetary theory, labor and economic history. The volume examines the School’s traditions of applied welfare theory and law and economics while providing a glimpse into emerging research on Chicago’s role in the development of neoliberalism.
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Chapter 4: The Economic Organization, by Frank H. Knight: A Reader’s Guide

Ross B. Emmett


Ross B. Emmett Introduction Generations of students at the University of Chicago during the 1930s and 1940s were introduced to economics by Frank H. Knight’s little textbook, The Economic Organization (EO). Originally written for classroom use at the University of Iowa in the mid-1920s, the material in EO was intended as part of a larger textbook project.1 Knight continued to work on an economics textbook throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, but no book was ever published. EO, therefore, contains the only textbook material of Knight’s ever published. In 1932, the four chapters Knight wrote in Iowa were included in the preliminary course reader for the newly formed general social sciences course in the College of the University of Chicago, at the suggestion of economist Harry Gideonese (Social Science Staff 1932). The publication of the four chapters as a booklet with the title The Economic Organization (Knight 1933) a year later made them available to students elsewhere in the university. Henry Simons required the booklet in conjunction with his course (Simons 2002), and it circulated widely among graduate students taking Economics 301. The booklet was reprinted as necessary for classroom use throughout the 1930s and 1940s, while the version included in the general social science course reader removed the third and fourth chapters in 1936. We do not know when the university discontinued publication of the booklet (copies continued to circulate among students long after publication ceased), but EO’s publication by Augustus M. Kelley in 1951 made the book more...

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