Armen Alchian, Founder of the “UCLA tradition” of economics

Armen Alchian, Founder of the “UCLA tradition” of economics

“Private property rights do not conflict with human rights. They are human rights...That is a fundamental reason for preference of a system of strong private property rights: private property rights protect individual liberty.”

Who he was

Armen Alchian, one of the founders of new institutional economics (NIE), was one of the most prominent economists of the 20th century. After receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford University, he served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and prepared some of his early theories there. His work on property rights and discrimination established his reputation as an authority in economics and laid the groundwork for the UCLA tradition of economics, named after the University of California, Los Angeles, where he taught for many years.

Alchian was unafraid to challenge established norms, and one of his accomplishments was to insist on the use of empirical data by economists to prove theories that were previously taken for granted. He was not a prolific writer, but his published works are highly regarded and widely cited: the famous Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate, Friedrich von Hayek, said Alchian “deserved” a Nobel Prize for his works.

His influence in the economics world was significant, and although he never received a Nobel Prize in economics himself, one of his students, William F. Sharpe, did. 

He died as a professor emeritus at UCLA. 

Interesting fact

Alchian co-authored a book, first titled “University Economics” (now “Exchange and Production”) known for its unconventional style and simple, clear, and humorous explanations of economics, including lines like: “Since the fiasco in the Garden of Eden, most of what we get is by sweat, strain, and anxiety.”

Learn more about him

The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

Armen Alchian Interviews Friedrich von Hayek