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 17: Henry Calvert Simons

Sherryl D. Kasper


Sherryl D. Kasper Henry Simons (1899–1946) stands out as one of the leading figures of the Chicago School of the 1930s. His particular contribution was to provide what George Stigler (1988, p. 139) characterized as the ‘lucid blueprint of the good society’ of classical liberalism. This blueprint instilled in later generations of Chicago economists both the ideas and the assurance that sustained them during the years of the Keynesian consensus. The ideas first appeared in his essay A Positive Program for Laissez Faire (Simons 1934), a preliminary theoretical explanation of the Depression with an accompanying set of interrelated policies founded on the organizing principle of classical liberalism that were designed to save the devastated American economy. Simons would devote much of his professional life to expanding on the ideas presented in this essay, and some of them would go on to feature prominently in Chicago economics. The assurance Simons provided to subsequent generations of Chicago economists originated in his belief that it was his moral responsibility to foster discussions about ways to re-create a free-market society for the twentieth century. The exchanges he promoted extended across disciplines and in and out of the academy. Furthermore, they featured an idealistic quality that went on to permeate Chicago economics. Simons was born on October 9, 1899 in Virden, Illinois, the son of Henry Calvert Simons, Sr., a moderately successful lawyer, and Mollie Willis Sims Simons, an extremely ambitious homemaker. He graduated second in his high-school class by the age of 16,...

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