Jacob Viner

Jacob Viner
Born (1892-05-03)May 3, 1892
Montreal, Quebec
Died September 12, 1970(1970-09-12) (aged 78)
Princeton, New Jersey
Nationality Canadian
Institution University of Chicago, Princeton University
Field Economics
School or
Chicago School of Economics
Alma mater Harvard University (Ph.D.), McGill University
Influences Frank W. Taussig, Frank Knight
Influenced George Stigler, Milton Friedman

Jacob Viner (May 3, 1892 – September 12, 1970) was a Canadian economist and is considered with Frank Knight and Henry Simons to be one of the "inspiring" mentors of the early Chicago School of Economics in the 1930s: he was one of the leading figures of the Chicago faculty.[1]

Education and career

Viner was born to a Jewish family[2] in 1892 in Montreal, Quebec, to Romanian immigrant parents and earned his undergraduate degree at McGill University in 1914. He received a PhD at Harvard University, where he wrote his dissertation under the renowned international trade economist Frank W. Taussig.

In academia

Viner was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1916 to 1917 and from 1919 to 1946. At various times Viner also taught at Stanford and Yale universities and twice went to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1946 he left for Princeton University, where he remained until his retirement in 1960.[3][4]

As a professor, Viner had a reputation as being extremely tough and many students were terrified by the prospect of studying under him. To his friends and family, however, he was known to be wise, witty, and kind. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman studied under Viner while he was at the University of Chicago.

Public service

Viner played a role in government, most notably as an advisor to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During World War II he served as co-rapporteur to the economic and financial group of the Council on Foreign Relations' "War and Peace Studies" project, along with Harvard economist Alvin Hansen.[5]



Viner was a noted opponent of John Maynard Keynes during the Great Depression. While he agreed with the policies of government spending that Keynes pushed for, Viner argued that Keynes's analysis was flawed and would not stand in the long run.

Known for his enduring economic modeling of the firm, including the long- and short-run cost curves, his work is still used today.[6] Viner is further known for having added the terms "trade creation" and "trade diversion" to the canon of economics in 1950. He also made important contributions to the theory of international trade and to the history of economic thought. While he was at Chicago, Viner co-edited the Journal of Political Economy with Frank Knight.

His most influential work, Studies in the Theory of International Trade (1937), discusses the history of economic thought and is a source for much of the knowledge of the Bullionist controversy in 19th-century Britain.

Atomic bomb

Viner spoke at the Conference on Atomic Energy Control in 1945, stating "that the atomic bomb was the cheapest way yet devised of killing human beings" and that atomic bombs "will be peacemaking in effect", perhaps making him the founder of nuclear deterrence.[7]

Major publications


  1. Alan O. Ebenstein, Hayek's journey: the mind of Friedrich Hayek, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, pp. 164–165
  2. edited by Stephen Harlan Norwood, Eunice G. Pollack Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Volume 1 August 2007
  3. "Jacon Viner". britannica. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  4. Leitch, Alexander (1978). "Viner, Jacob". Princeton University Press. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  5. Michael Wala (1994). The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War. Berghahn Books. p. 38. The rapporteurs of the Economic and Financial Group
  6. Viner, Jacob (1931). "Cost Curves and Supply Curves". Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie. 3 (1): 23–46. JSTOR 41792520. Reprinted in R. B. Emmett, ed. 2002, The Chicago Tradition in Economics, 1892–1945, Routledge, v. 6, pp. 192–215.
  7. Richard Rhodes (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 753.

Further reading

External links

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