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June 6, 2007

Sure it works in reality, but does it work in theory?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has a very interesting post up about a book just released on the history of the Chicago School of Economics. He has an interesting excerpt that is relevant to all the U of C students studying for their economics exams right now (like I should be doing):

The basic characteristics of this Chicago Tradition are: a strong work ethic, an unshakable belief in economics as a true science, academic excellence as the sole criterion for advancement, an intense debating culture focused on sharpening the critical mind, and the University of Chicago's two-dimensional isolation. Much of the credit for the creation of this Chicago Tradition has to go to the University's first president, William Rainey Harper.
Uh oh, better get my act together.I have little basis for comparison, but that assessment seems true, although I'm unsure the extent to which Harper deserves credit for this. I feel that there is a difference between the aspects that make Chicago unique as a school like the belief in a strong work ethic, treating all questions with rigor, and being skeptical at each step of the proof. Harper and Robert Hutchins (who pulled the U of C out of the Big Ten, making it the nerdiest place ever) probably deserves a lions share of the credit for this, but the Economics department seems to be a beast all its own.Here (you'll need a JSTOR subscription) is a more explicit discussion of the "Chicago School of Economics".