Harold Demsetz: From Economic Man to Economic System

Josh Wright —  31 August 2008

Just when I thought I had read it all, and re-read most of it a few times, Harold Demsetz releases a new book, From Economic Man to Economic System (Cambridge University Press, table of contents available here).  My colleague Lloyd Cohen has a very nice blurb that captures the spirit of Harold’s work:

This lovely set of essays provides a small intellectual feast. The readings are a delight for the thoughtful economist and should be an excellent supplement for any number of undergraduate or graduate economic courses or law school offerings. Demsetz is an old-fashioned economist in the best sense of the term. He writes and thinks about important economic questions in the tradition of Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Knight, Viner, and Coase. His is not the economics of sterile equations and diagrams but the lively engagement with fundamental questions such as the root of property rights, the delayed emergence of capitalism; and declining family size. He demonstrates the power of simple straightforward economic instincts and principles when wielded by a sharp mind aided by a fluid pen to enlighten important social questions.

Well said.  Of course, TOTM readers will know that Harold is my perennial favorite pick for the Nobel.  I’m looking forward to reading it.  On top of the couple hundred of pages of new material in the book, there is also this 90 minute interview with UCLA’s Mark Grady in the Liberty Fund Intellectual Portrait Series featuring commentary from Ken Lehn, Sam Peltzman, and Ben Klein.