Harold Demsetz 1930 – 2019

Harold Demsetz the great Chicago school economist (who spent much of his career at UCLA) passed away on 4 January this year. He was 88.  Unfortunately and inexplicably he never won the economics Nobel (in this he joins Armen Alchian and William Baumol).

Demsetz was my masters thesis supervisor’s PhD supervisor – so I got to read a lot of Demsetz’ writings. My masters thesis was on asset-pricing theory and I’d say, “I don’t think Demsetz wrote anything on asset pricing” and my supervisor would say, “I’m sure you’ll learn something useful from reading Harold”. I did learn a lot from reading Demsetz and I often re-read his works and still teach some of his papers in my courses.

This entry was posted in Economics and economy. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Harold Demsetz 1930 – 2019

  1. Pingback: Harold Demsetz, 1930-2019 - Cafe Hayek

  2. C.L. says:

    I remember reading about Demsetz auctions in an essay I wrote many moons ago. I think I even read one of his books. That’s what people used to do once, children; like sidebar surfing at YouTube, only a book led you to another book … led you to another book.

    It’s interesting how the twentieth century produced so many economists that became, if not household names, then certainly towering figures in public policy discourse. Milt, Hayek, Keynes (yuck), Demsetz, et hoc genus omne. That doesn’t seem to happen any more.

  3. C.L. says:

    for an essay

  4. Rafe Champion says:

    Reading books is dangerous especially if you only read the ones you are told to read. Unless you are told to read the best books or find them by accident.

  5. Bad Samaritan says:

    Studying economics is BS. What a waste of time. Apart from gathering stats to justify macro/micro policy settings there’s no need to ever even look at the dismal science.

    My favourite daily stupidity? Currency movements are driven by interest rate movements. Ha ha ha ha. As if! Or….

    Yesterday’s discussion about what drives economic growth. That 99.9% of economists have it arse-around shows how irrelevant they all are. Or…

    Well, enough. Mr Demsetz made a living out of it? Good for him.

    BTW. I apply the same test to economists as I do to racing or sports pundits. If they aren’t making money out of betting on it (for economists; the stock-market, futures/options, currencies/commodities etc) then they do not have any more a clue than Joe Average!

  6. Rebel with cause says:

    Proponents of government intervention frequently employ what Demsetz would call a ‘nirvana fallacy’ by comparing markets and their imperfections with a perfect government solution where no failure is possible.

    Economics students should have to spend at least as long studying government and institutional failure as they do market failure.

  7. Pyrmonter says:


    Saddened to hear this. Would a thread on ‘economists who seeme to have been overlooked for a Nobel’ be seasonal? Kirzner’s name is often proffered; and I’ve wondered about Bhagwati.

  8. C.L. says:

    What about Wayne Swan?

  9. Bad Samaritan says:

    Pyrmonter (9.22am) Instead of a thread on Economists who never got the accolades they deserved, what about one on Climate Scientists who never got the accolades they deserved? Or…

    Perhaps one on “famous” Economists and Climate Scientists who should have got no accolades at all?

  10. Rafe Champion says:

    I will have a go at that but not while I am on holiday in NZ.

  11. Mark M says:

    If only he was a community organiser from Chicago, he might have had a Nobel attached to his birth certificate.

  12. max says:

    Bad Samaritan
    #2902141, posted on January 9, 2019 at 8:04 am
    “Studying economics is BS. What a waste of time. Apart from gathering stats to justify macro/micro policy settings there’s no need to ever even look at the dismal science.”

    There is difference between studying and learning

    Why should we learn economics

    “knowledge is power”

    All the great issues of present-day political controversies are economic.

    If you do not understand the logic of an economic argument, you are vulnerable to economic forecasters who also do not understand economics. Jesus called this the blind leading the blind into the ditch.

    The bottom line is that an understanding of economic would prevent us from falling easy prey to charlatans, hustlers and quacks.

    this 2 easy books you can find online for free:
    Henry Hazlitt Economics in One Lesson
    Thomas Sowell Basic Economics

Comments are closed.