George Stigler

George Joseph Stigler (January 17, 1911 December 1, 1991) was a U.S. economist. He won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1982, and was a key leader of the Chicago School of Economics, along with his close friend Milton Friedman.

While at Chicago, he was greatly influenced by Frank Knight, his dissertation supervisor. Milton Friedman, a friend for over sixty years, comments it as a remarkable feat since only three or four students ever managed to complete their PhD dissertation under Knight in 28 years of his service at Chicago. Jakob Viner and Henry Simons also had great influence on him. Among his students, Allen Wallis and Milton Friedman also had great impact on his economic thinking.

Stigler is best known for developing the Economic Theory of Regulation, also known as capture, which says that interest groups and other political participants will use the regulatory and coercive powers of government to shape laws and regulations in a way that is beneficial to them. This theory is an important component of the Public Choice field of economics. He also carried out extensive research into the history of economic thought.

His 1962 article "Information in the Labor Market" developed the theory of search unemployment.

In his book, The Intellectual and the Marketplace, he proposed Stigler's Law of Demand and Supply Elasticities that "all demand curves are inelastic, and all supply curves are inelastic, too." He referenced many studies that found most goods and services to be inelastic over the long run. From that and a proof by Alfred Marshall that "the third condition [for inelastic demand] is that only a small part of the expenses of production of the commodity should consist of the price", he also proposed that "since most or all specific costs of production are relatively small, and entrepreneurs do not bother with small costs, ... they do not bother with costs at all. Hence they do not maximize profits."

Stigler was born in Seattle, Washington, attended the University of Washington and Northwestern University, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1938. He spent much of World War II at Columbia University, performing mathematical and statistical research for the Manhattan Project. He later served on the Columbia faculty from 1947 to 1958.

Stigler was a founding member of the Mont Pelerin Society, and served as its president from 1976 to 1978.

He also received National Medal of Science in 1987.


  • (1941) Production and Distribution Theories: 1870-1895. New York: Macmillan.
  • (1961). “The Economics of Information,” Journal of Political Economy, June. (JSTOR)
  • (1962). The Intellectual and the Marketplace. Selected Papers, no. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
  • (1963). (With Paul Samuelson) "A Dialogue on the Proper Economic Role of the State." Selected Papers, no.7. Chicago: University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
  • (1963). Capital and Rates of Return in Manufacturing Industries. National Bureau of Economic Research, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • (1965). Essays in the History of Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • (1970). (With J.K. Kindahl) The Behavior of Industrial Prices. National Bureau of Economic Research, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • (1971). "The Theory of Economic Regulation." Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, no. 3,pp. 3-18.
  • (1975). Citizen and the State: Essays on Regulation.
  • (1982). "The Process and Progress of Economics," Nobel Memorial Lecture, 8 December (with bibliography).
  • (1982). The Economist as Preacher, and Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • (1983). The Organization of Industry.
  • (1985). Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist, autobiography.
  • (1986). The Essence of Stigler (ISBN 0-8179-8462-3) essays edited by Kurt R. Leube.
  • (1987). The Theory of Price, Fourth Edition. New York: Macmillan.
  • (1988), ed. Chicago Studies in Political Economy.


  • Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. (2005). "Measurement, Incentives, and Constraints in Stigler's Economics of Science." The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 12, no. 4637-63.
  • Friedman, Milton (1993). George Stigler: A Personal Reminiscence, Journal of Political Economy Vol. 101, No. 5 (Oct.), pp. 768-773 JSTOR
  • _____ (1998). George J. Stigler, 1911-1991: Biographical Memoir, (National Academy of Sciences), online,with bibliography.
  • Hammond, J. Daniel, and Claire H. Hammond, ed. (2006). Making Chicago Price Theory: Friedman-Stigler Correspondence, 1945-1957. Routledge. 165 pp. ISBN 0-415-70078-7.
  • Newman, Peter (1987). "Stigler, George Joseph," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, p. 498.
  • Schmalensee, Richard ((1987). "Stigler's contribution to microeconomics and industrial organization," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics], v. 4, pp. 499-500.
  • Sowell, Thomas ((1987). "Stigler as an historian of economic thought," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, pp. 498-99.

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