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 3: Aaron Director

Robert Van Horn


Robert Van Horn* Aaron Director (1901–2004) is often cited as a principal in establishing the post-war Chicago School (Samuelson 1998), the founder of a dominant school of jurisprudence, law and economics (Bork 2004), and key ‘in reorienting antitrust policy along freemarket lines’ (Posner 2004). Through his extensive involvement in teaching and directing research at Chicago and Stanford, Director had a profound influence on later luminaries of the Chicago School such as Robert Bork, Lester Telser, Reuben Kessel, and Edward Levi. Although Director had a significant influence, he remains an opaque historical figure, partly because he seldom published. Only one biographical account currently exists (Coase 1998). What follows attempts to paint a fuller portrait of Director incorporating heretofore-unacknowledged archival sources (see Van Horn 2007 for a more extensive treatment). Born in Charterisk, Ukraine (at that time a part of Russia), Harry A. Director was the son of a flour mill owner. He immigrated with his family in 1914 to Portland, Oregon, where his father worked as a laborer and then a retailer. In 1921, Director graduated from Lincoln High School in Portland and went to Yale on a scholarship. At Yale, Director, along with the painter Mark Rothko, helped produce the Yale Saturday Evening Pest, which wore a socialist cloak and a progressive cap. After a political survey at Yale revealed the presence of 225 Republicans, the Pest reported: ‘We need not lose hope entirely. There were five Progressives and four Socialists’ (quoted in Coase 1998, p. 601). After the...

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