Armen A. Alchian, Prof. of Economics, Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles

 

Well Kept Secrets of Jimís Contributions To Economic Ph.D.s of the University of California, Los Angeles

Though Jim is mostly associated with the University of Virginia, he was once associated with the University of California, Los Angeles in the late 1960s. During that too brief episode in our neighboring offices. The many hours of intense discussion were a joy and an education. But, more important, Jim hatched a plot that left a legacy here, nearly matching that at Virginia. At his instigation, the Foundation for Research in Economics and Education was created, and financed from sources initially cultivated by Jim ---to subsidize research and graduate students. He still is on its Board of Directors. To him is owed the gratitude of scores of UCLA graduate students in Economics, who have subsequently been establishing their own claim to fame. To that is due the sudden burst of UCLAís Economics Department upon the national scene in the "70s" and "80s". Surely totally unplanned was the resulting remarkably excellent group of female Ph.D.s, known as the "UCLA Girls", a more pleasing counterpart to the "Chicago Boys".

Itís a source of personal pride that I was one of the first to extend an offer of employment at UCLA to Jim, when he completed his study at the University of Chicago as one the exceptionally gifted post-war students. UCLA didnít get him at that first try, but later in the 1960s he came "permanently". But, before returning again to Virginia, left another legacy, besides that of the Foundation. He inculcated an intense respect for rigor and honesty in applications of Economic analysis. I have seen him start with a conviction, which he later complete reversed in the course of his analytic thinking Ė and did so without simultaneous attempts to excuse his previous foolishness.

Despite his accomplishments and contributions, Jim had a major character flaw --- intolerance of the administrative lethargy at UCLA. He left in disgust to return to Virginia, when I was away on leave. Though I often wonder if I could have persuaded Jim to be more tolerant, I am realistic enough to not wonder long, just wistfully instead. I suspect that, as it would have to me, the thought of a Virginia "secretarial aide de-camp", like Betty Tillman, was, or certainly should have been influential.