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RIP William R. Allen (1924-2021)

William R. Allen, my multiple-times UCLA econ professor when I was in college between 1989 and 1993, author of The Midnight Economist, and co-author of Alchian & Allen’s University Economics, died recently. I had him at UCLA for Econ 2 (Macroeconomics), Econ 107 (History of Economic Thought), and an independent study project. (I believe Eugene also took a class from him when he was in college.)

Here’s Donald Boudreaux discussing the Alchian & Allen textbook:

Among the ten greatest books ever written in economics is University Economics. First published in 1972, this textbook that is co-authored by Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen is a marvel. If you read it and grasp even no more than one-third of its lessons you will gain keener insights into economic forces at work than are had by some Nobel laureates in economics. If you grasp most of the lessons of this book, you will possess economic insight that is rivaled by very few people indeed.

And here’s Peter Boettke:

Allen was a force in the great UCLA tradition of economic education that challenged the Keynesian hegemony in the 1960s-1970s.  His retrospective on UCLA is one of my favorite and most informative retrospectives on the trials and tribulations of maintaining greatness over time in an academic setting.

Somehow, I managed to get through an economics degree at UCLA without having taken classes from the old great ones—Alchian, Demsetz, Hirshleifer, etc. I didn’t even know who they were until way after I graduated; I chose professors strictly by who fit into my schedule; and I thought “Theory of the Firm”, “Industrial Organization”, and “Public Finance” (all topics that I ended up specializing in when I was in grad school) were dull topics for business-school types! Someone should have counseled me otherwise at some point.


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Sasha Volokh

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