Frank Knight and the Chicago School
| Peter Klein |
Frank Knight is generally regarded, along with Jacob Viner, as the founder of the Chicago school of economics. But Knight’s relationship to the later Chicago school of Friedman, Stigler, and Director is ambiguous. Knight’s theories of capital and competition were incorporated into the mainstream Chicago (and contemporary neoclassical) tradition but his account of profit and entrepreneurship, his quasi-Austrian methodology (inherited from his teacher Herbert J. Davenport), and his eclectic social and political theories were largely ignored or forgotten.
Ross Emmett has a new paper, “Did the Chicago School Reject Frank Knight? Assessing Frank Knight’s Place in the Chicago Economics Tradition,” exploring this in detail. The conclusion: “Without [Knight's] initiation of eaching price theory and persistence in defending it, there ould be no Chicago tradition. Yet the methodological approach and research infrastructure which propelled the Chicago School to a central position in the economics profession owe little or nothing to him.”
(Incidentally, critics of economics often target a stylized version of Chicago economics circa 1970 (see here), but these critics often seem unaware that the Chicago school of economics no longer exists. While there is still a (top-notch) economics department at the University of Chicago, there is no longer a distinct Chicago approach. The economics taught at Chicago is the same as the economics taught at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, or any other top mainstream department.)