Alchian has always been more concerned about economics' scientific fundamentals. His monumental contributions in economics have elucidated the basic principles, of what makes an economy—like an automobile engine—run. . . . [Alchian] has achieved what few of us ever will: the plaudits of his peers as one of the greats. And—to him,most important of all—the satisfaction of knowing that generations of economists haveseen the world more clearly through his eyes. -- Fred McChesney
Armen Alchian, in whose honor the ICLE has been formed, is a pioneer of new institutional economics and an intellectual forebear of the law and economics movement. His intuitive, non-technical (but rigorous and thoughtful) approach to economic questions is the model for the center’s work. Alchian’s focus on the importance of institutions to economic and legal analysis and his unwavering efforts to explain complex real-world phenomena with the powerful insights provided by property rights theory and the theory of the firm have inspired generations of scholars. Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek is purported to have said of Alchian, "There are two economists who deserve the Nobel prize because their work is important but won't get it because they didn't do a lot of work: Ronald Coase and Armen Alchian." Although into his nineties now, there is still hope for Alchian to follow in Coase’s unexpected footsteps.
Armen Alchian has also been a teacher, mentor and friend to many of those affiliated with the ICLE. His influence has probably been greatest not through his important writings, but through his exceptional teaching. Those of us who were lucky enough to have studied with Armen have had our thinking indelibly shaped by the experience, and all of us would rank him in the pantheon of great teachers.
Biography (from Wikipedia):
Armen Albert Alchian (born April 12, 1914) is an American economist and an emeritus professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Alchian was born in Fresno, California into an Armenian-American family. He attended California State University, Fresno for two years before transferring to Stanford University in 1934, which awarded him the B.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1944). He was a statistician with the USA Army Air Corps, from 1942 to 1946. In 1946, he joined the Economics Department at UCLA, where he spent the rest of his career. For many years, he was affiliated with the Rand Corporation. In 1996, he became a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association.
Alchian is the founder of the "UCLA tradition" in economics, a member of the Chicago school of economics, and one of the more prominent price theorists of the second half of the 20th century. He is the author of path breaking articles on information and uncertainty, and the theory of the firm. Through his writings on property rights and transaction costs,he is a founder of the new institutional economics. A surprising fraction of Alchian's writings have touched on topics conventionally viewed as macroeconomic: money, inflation, unemployment, and the theory of business investment. His writings are characterized by lucid witty exposition and a minimum of mathematical formalism.
Alchian is the coauthor (with William Allen) of the curious and influential introductory economics text Exchange and Production. While the technical level of this text is unusually low, the demands it makes of the student's economic intuition are unusually high. Its content and organization differ radically from those of other American university economics texts written during the second half of the 20th century. This was the first American introductory text to discuss information, transaction costs, property rights, and a market economy as a discovery process.