George Stigler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from George J. Stigler)
Jump to: navigation, search
George Stigler
George Stigler.jpg
Born (1911-01-17)January 17, 1911
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Died December 1, 1991(1991-12-01) (aged 80)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality United States
Institution Columbia University
Brown University
University of Chicago
Iowa State University
Field Economics
School or
Chicago School of Economics
Alma mater University of Washington (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
University of Chicago (PhD)
Frank Knight
Jacob Mincer
Thomas Sowell
Influences Jacob Viner, Henry Simons, Milton Friedman
Influenced Jacques Drèze
Mark Blaug
Gary Becker
Contributions Capture theory
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1982)
National Medal of Science (1987)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

George Joseph Stigler (January 17, 1911 – December 1, 1991) was a U.S. economist, the 1982 laureate in Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and a key leader of the Chicago School of Economics. Stigler is famously known for crowning economics as "an imperial science".[1]

Life and career[edit]

Stigler was born in Seattle, Washington, the son of Elsie Elizabeth (Hungler) and Joseph Stigler.[2] He was of German descent. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1931 with a B.A and then spent a year at Northwestern University from which he obtained his M.B.A in 1932. It was during his studies at Northwestern that Stigler developed an interest in economics and decided on an academic career.[3]

Due to a tuition scholarship that he received from the University of Chicago, Stigler enrolled at the university in 1933 to study economics and went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1938. His teaching experience began in 1936 at Iowa State College, where he taught until 1938. He spent much of World War II at Columbia University, performing mathematical and statistical research for the Manhattan Project. He then spent one year at Brown University. He served on the Columbia faculty from 1947 to 1958.

While at Chicago, he was greatly influenced by Frank Knight, his dissertation supervisor. Milton Friedman, a friend for over sixty years, commented that it was remarkable for Stigler to have passed his dissertation through Knight, as only three or four students had ever managed to complete their PhD dissertation under Knight in his 28 years at Chicago. Stigler's influences included Jacob Viner and Henry Simons, as well as students W. Allen Wallis and Friedman.

Stigler is best known for developing the Economic Theory of Regulation, also known as capture, which says that interest groups and other political participants will use the regulatory and coercive powers of government to shape laws and regulations in a way that is beneficial to them. This theory is a component of the public choice field of economics but is also deeply opposed by public choice scholars belonging to the "Virginia School" such as Charles Rowley.[4] He also carried out extensive research in the history of economic thought. Rowley and other public choice thinkers oppose what they see as nihilistic thinking in Stigler's view that policy advice is irrelevant because political markets are efficient.

Stigler's most important contribution to economics was disseminated in his landmark article titled "The Economics of Information".[5] According to Friedman, Stigler "essentially created a new area of study for economists." In this article, Stigler stressed the importance of information by writing, "One should hardly have to tell academicians that information is a valuable resource: knowledge is power. And yet it occupies a slum dwelling in the town of economics."[3]

His 1962 article "Information in the Labor Market" developed the theory of search unemployment.[6] In 1963 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.[7]

He was known for his sharp sense of humor, and wrote a number of spoof essays. In his book The Intellectual and the Marketplace, for instance, he proposed Stigler's Law of Demand and Supply Elasticities, that "all demand curves are inelastic and all supply curves are inelastic too." The essay referenced studies that found many goods and services to be inelastic over the long run, as well as offering a supposed theoretical proof; he ended by announcing that his next essay would demonstrate that the price system does not exist. Another essay, on "Truth in Teaching," described the consequences of a (fictional) set of court decisions that held universities legally responsible for the consequences of teaching errors.[8] The Stigler diet was named after him.

Stigler wrote numerous articles on the history of economics, published in the leading journals and republished 14 of them in 1965. The review in the American Economic Review said "many of these essays have become such well-known landmarks that no scholar in this field should be unfamiliar with them" and praised, "The lucid prose, penetrating logic, and wry humor which have become the author's trademarks."[9][10] However, economist Deirdre McCloskey later referred to Stigler as "among the worst historians of economic thought in the history of the discipline" who "read a lot but was defective in paying attention."[11]

Stigler was a founding member of the Mont Pelerin Society, and was president from 1976 to 1978.

He received National Medal of Science in 1987.


  • ([1941] 1994). Production and Distribution Theories: The Formative Period. New York: Macmillan. Preview.
  • (1961). “The Economics of Information,” Journal of Political Economy, 69(3), pp. 213–25
  • (1962a). "Information in the Labor Market." Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), Part 2, pp. 94–105
  • (1962b). The Intellectual and the Marketplace. Selected Papers, no. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Reprinted in Sigler (1986), pp. 79–88
  • (1963). (With Paul Samuelson) "A Dialogue on the Proper Economic Role of the State." Selected Papers, no. 7. pp. 3–20. Chicago: University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
  • (1963). Capital and Rates of Return in Manufacturing Industries. National Bureau of Economic Research, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
  • (1965). Essays in the History of Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • (1968). The Organization of Industry. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin
  • (1970). (With J.K. Kindahl) The Behavior of Industrial Prices. National Bureau of Economic Research, New York: Columbia University Press
  • (1971). "The Theory of Economic Regulation." Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, no. 3, pp. 3–18
  • (1975). Citizen and the State: Essays on Regulation
  • (1982). "The Process and Progress of Economics," Nobel Memorial Lecture, 8 December (with bibliography)
  • (1982). The Economist as Preacher, and Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • (1983). The Organization of Industry
  • (1985). Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist, autobiography
  • (1986). The Essence of Stigler, K.R. Leube and T.G. Moore, ed. Scroll or page-arrow to respective essays. ISBN 0-8179-8462-3
  • (1987). The Theory of Price, Fourth Edition. New York: Macmillan
  • (1988). ed. Chicago Studies in Political Economy

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stigler, George. 1984. "Economics—The imperial science?" Scandinavian Journal of Economics 86: 301-13". 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b Milton Friedman (1992). "George Joseph Stigler January 17, 1911 – December 1, 1991," Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences.
  4. ^ Palda, Filip. A Better Kind of Violence: The Chicago School of Political Economy, Public Choice, and the Quest for and Ultimate Theory of Power. Cooper-Wolfling Press. 2016.
  5. ^ George J. Stigler (1961). “The Economics of Information,” Journal of Political Economy, 69(3), pp. 213–25.
  6. ^ George J. Stigler (1962a). "Information in the Labor Market." Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), Part 2, Oct., pp. 94–105.
  7. ^ View/Search Fellows of the ASA, accessed 2016-07-23.
  8. ^ George J. Stigler, 1973. "A Sketch of the History of Truth in Teaching," Journal of Political Economy, 81(2, Part 1), pp. 491–95.
  9. ^ Thomas Sowell, review in American Economic Review (1965) 55#2 p. 552
  10. ^ George J. Stigler, Essays in the history of economics (U. of Chicago Press, 1965)
  11. ^ Deirdre McCloskey, "The So-Called Coase Theorem," p. 1


"Stigler, George Joseph" by Peter Newman, v. 4, p. 498.
"Stigler as an historian of economic thought" by Thomas Sowell, v. 4, pp. 498–99.
"Stigler's contribution to microeconomics and industrial organization," by Richard Schmalensee, v. 4, pp. 499–500

External links[edit]