Monday, January 18, 2021

William R. Allen (1924-2021)

William R. Allen

By Don Boudreaux

Among the ten greatest books ever written in economics is University Economics. First published in 1972, this textbook that is co-authored by Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen is a marvel. If you read it and grasp even no more than one-third of its lessons you will gain keener insights into economic forces at work than are had by some Nobel laureates in economics. If you grasp most of the lessons of this book, you will possess economic insight that is rivaled by very few people indeed.

Alchian (1914-1913) died almost eight years ago. I learned just this evening, from Jerry Jordan, that Bill Allen (1924-2021) – Alchian’s co-author and long-time colleague at UCLA Econ – died today. Prof. Allen would have turned 97 in April. So sad.

Regular readers of Café Hayek know that I often quoted from Bill Allen’s “midnight economist” transcripts. Being a great economics educator, Allen for many years did short radio broadcasts as “The Midnight Economist.” One can learn enormous amounts of economics simply by reading these transcripts.

I never met Bill Allen face-to-face, but I’m honored that he initiated e-mail communication with me several years ago. We kept this communication up until not long ago. Prof. Allen appreciated the fact that I often quoted him at this blog. I was – and continue to be – amazed that an economist of his stature was thoughtful enough to extend his thanks to me. Café Hayek – and I – got from him far more than he can possibly have gotten from Café Hayek or from me.

In 2018, under the expert guidance and editorship of UCLA Econ alum Jerry Jordan, University Economics was revised and released by Liberty Fund as Universal Economics. The Foreword, appropriately, was written by Bill Allen.

Buy this book. Read it. Read it twice. Study it carefully. Learn the economic way of thinking. By doing so you will fit yourself with mental lenses that will reveal to you aspects of economic reality that would otherwise remain hidden, and that are unseen by the vast majority of your fellow human beings. And please remember Bill Allen – and Armen Alchian – as you celebrate the possession of your new, powerful vision!

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. "None of us is an authority in everything, indeed, few are authorities in anything." - William R Allen

  2. Prof Allen was my favorite econ prof when I attended UCLA as an undergrad in the mid 80’s.

    He was a brilliant scholar, a gifted teacher and had a keen sense of humor.

    In fact, it was largely because of Prof Allen that I changed my major from Kinesiology to Economics.

    Prof Allen was truly special.

    God Speed Professor!

  3. The article misspelled the title as "University", should be "Universal"