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:: By Johan Van Overtveldt

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Open Book

The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business (Agate, 2007)

[PHOTO] By Johan Van Overtveldt

Johan Van Overtveldt, director of an economics think tank in Belgium, begins The Chicago School by wondering if something resembling Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic drives the U of C’s economics tradition, which he deems among the 20th century’s “most influential” and disciplined. He attributes Chicago’s dedication in part to its geographically isolated and intellectually independent environment, where discussions and community arise almost by default. In his exhaustive history of the University’s economic theories, Van Overtveldt highlights Chicago’s “great consistency in defending the free-market approach.” He also describes figures such as the pair of close friends and Nobel laureates Milton Friedman, AM’33, and George Stigler, PhD’38.

Excerpted from The Chicago School:

“ [Milton] Friedman emphasizes [George] Stigler’s ‘quickness of mind, cleverness of repartee, and unmatched capacity for smart cracks.’ ... Once, [economist] Paul Samuelson preceded Stigler on a panel discussion and ended his remarks by saying, ‘I know what George Stigler’s going to say and he’s all wrong.’ At that, Stigler stood up, said ‘2 + 2 = 4,’ and sat down. He introduced his talks with remarks such as, ‘I shall face the stupendous problem of speaking for 5 minutes in a way that will be remembered for 10 minutes.’

.... In another instance, a reporter who was interviewing Stigler commented on the fact that Stigler had written only 100 articles; the reporter had recently interviewed Harry Johnson, who had written 500. Stigler’s response was succinct: ‘Mine are all different.’ ”