Armen Alchian


Armen Alchian

Armen Albert Alchian (born April 12, 1914, Fresno, California) is an American economist and an emeritus professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Alchian was born into an Armenian-American family. He attended California State University, Fresno for two years before transferring to Stanford University in 1934, which awarded him the B.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1944). He was a statistician with the USA Army Air Corps, from 1942 to 1946. In 1946, he joined the Economics Department at UCLA, where he spent the rest of his career. For many years, he was affiliated with the Rand Corporation. In 1996, he became a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association.

Alchian is the founder of the "UCLA tradition" in economics, a member of the Chicago school of economic theory, and one of the more prominent price theorists of the second half of the 20th century. He is the author of pathbreaking articles on information and uncertainty, and the theory of the firm. Through his writings on property rights and transaction costs, he is a founder of the New Institutional Economics. A surprising fraction of Alchian's writings haved touched on topics conventionally viewed as macroeconomic: money, inflation, unemployment, and the theory of business investment. His writings are characterized by lucid witty exposition and a minimum of mathematical formalism.

Alchian is the coauthor (with William Allen) of the curious and influential introductory economics text "Exchange and Production". While the technical level of this text is unusually low, the demands it makes of the student's economic intuition are unusually high. Its content and organization differ radically from those of other American university economics texts written during the second half of the 20th century. This was the first American introductory text to discuss information, transaction costs, property rights, and a market economy as a discovery process. This text also contains the classic statement of what has come to be known as the Alchian-Allen Theorem. ThIs proposition, colloquially known as "ship the good apples out," states that when output varies in quality, the lower quality output is consumed nearby while the higher quality output is shipped long distances. The reason is simple: transportation costs vary with the weight and bulk, but not the quality, of that which is transported.

Selected works

*1950, "Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory," "Journal of Political Economy 58": 211-21.
*1959, "Costs and Outputs" in Moses Abramovitz, ed., "The Allocation of Economic Resources".
*1969 "Information Costs, Pricing and Resource Unemployment," "Economic Inquiry 7": 109-28.
*1972 (with Harold Demsetz) "Production, Information costs and Economic Organization," "American Economic Review 62": 777-795."
*1978 (with Robert Crawford and Benjamin Klein) "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," "Journal of Law and Economics 21": .
* 1978. "Economic Forces at Work". Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. A number of Alchian's better known articles are reprinted here.
* 1983. "Exchange and Production". Wadsworth Publishing. A revision of part of "University Economics", first published in 1964.
*1993, " [http://www.econlib.org/library/enc/PropertyRights.html Property Rights] " in "The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics", Liberty Fund.

External links

*" [http://www.econlib.org/library/enc/bios/Alchian.html Armen Alchian,] " "The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics", Liberty Fund.
* [http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/General/ALCHIAN.HTM Alchian's profile] at UCLA.
* [http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/alchian.htm Alchian's profile] at the New School for Social Research.
* [http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/articles.asp?id=37051 Article on Alchian] from the UCLA student newspaper, the "Daily Bruin".

Audio link

*" [http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1029&Itemid=27 The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with Armen A. Alchian (2000)] " at The Online Library of Liberty


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