Frank H. Knight

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Frank Hyneman Knight (1885-1972) - was the dominant intellectual influence in the Department of Economics at The University of Chicago during the formative years of the distinctive approach to economic analysis identified with Chicago Economics, An economist by training and a philosopher/historian by inclination, Knight spent his career opposing the efforts of progressives, institutionalists, Keynesians, and Christians who advocated social control in the name of science and/or morality. Liberal society, he believed, was always in danger from those who claimed to know what was best for society on either moral or scientific grounds. (Social scientists, he found, often were moralists and scientists simultaneously!) What liberal society required was ongoing vigilance to protect the never-ending nature of its discussion, and wise guides to maintain the discussion's quality. While knowledge of the core of economic theory was a necessary ingredient for intelligent discussion, ultimately economics played a small role in Knight's understanding of a well-functioning liberal society.

The "Grand Old Man" of Chicago, Frank H. Knight was one of the century's most eclectic economists and perhaps the deepest thinker and scholar American economics has produced.  Jointly with Jacob Viner, Knight presided over the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago from the 1920s to the late 1940s,  and played a central role in setting the character of that department that was perhaps only comparable to Schumpeter's tenure over Harvard or Robbins's at the L.S.E.


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