Jacob Viner

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Jacob Viner
Jacob Viner.jpg
Born(1892-05-03)May 3, 1892
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedSeptember 12, 1970(1970-09-12) (aged 78)
Academic background
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor F. W. Taussig
Influences Frank Knight
Notable ideas

Jacob Viner [lower-alpha 1] (3 May 1892 – 12 September 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. [4] Paul Samuelson named Viner (along with Harry Gunnison Brown, Allyn Abbott Young, Henry Ludwell Moore, Frank Knight, Wesley Clair Mitchell, and Henry Schultz) as one of the several "American saints in economics" born after 1860. [5] He was an important figure in the field of political economy. [6]


Early life

Viner was born to a Jewish family [7] on May 3, 1892, in Montreal, Quebec, to Romanian immigrant parents. He earned his undergraduate degree at McGill University in 1914. He received a PhD at Harvard University, where he wrote his dissertation, under the trade economist F. W. Taussig. [8]

Academic career

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. [9] [10] He was also a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1947 to 1948 and a permanent member there from 1950 to 1970. [11] [12] [13] Viner was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1934. [14] In 1942, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society. [15]

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman studied under Viner while he was at the University of Chicago.[ citation needed ]

Viner died on September 12, 1970, in Princeton, New Jersey.

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 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. [16]



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

Known for his economic modeling of the firm, including the long- and the short-run cost curves, his work is still used today. [17]

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 work, Studies in the Theory of International Trade (1937), discusses the history of economic thought and is a historical source for 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. [18]

Major publications


  1. Pronounced /ˈvnər/ .

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  1. https://www.academia.edu/27755778/Jacob_Viner_on_Religion_and_Intellectual_History pp. 1, 6
  2. https://econjwatch.org/file_download/717/BeckerIPEL.pdf p. 286
  3. http://www2.ku.edu/~kuwpaper/2004Papers/200401Barnett.pdf p. 529
  4. Alan O. Ebenstein, Hayek's journey: the mind of Friedrich Hayek , Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, pp. 164–165
  5. Ryan, Christopher Keith (1985). "Harry Gunnison Brown: economist". Iowa State University. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  6. Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 20. ISBN   978-0-691-13569-4.
  7. edited by Stephen Harlan Norwood, Eunice G. Pollack Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Volume 1 August 2007
  8. "Viner, Jacob". etcweb.princeton.edu. Archived from the original on 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
  9. "Jacon Viner". britannica. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  10. Leitch, Alexander (1978). "Viner, Jacob". Princeton University Press. Archived from the original on 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  11. "Jacob Viner". britannica. 2016. Retrieved 2016-01-06.
  12. Leitch, Alexander (1978). "Viner, Jacob". Princeton University Press. Archived from the original on 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  13. "A Community of Scholars: The Institute for Advanced Study Faculty and Members 1930-1980" (PDF). The Institute for Advanced Study. 1980. Retrieved 2023-12-16.
  14. "Jacob Viner". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  15. "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  16. 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
  17. Viner, Jacob (1931). "Cost Curves and Supply Curves". Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie . 3 (1): 23–46. doi:10.1007/BF01316299. JSTOR   41792520. S2CID   153899081. Reprinted in R. B. Emmett, ed. 2002, The Chicago Tradition in Economics, 1892–1945, Routledge, v. 6, pp. 192–215.
  18. Richard Rhodes (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb . Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. pp.  753.

Further reading

Professional and academic associations
Preceded by President of the American Economic Association
Succeeded by
Preceded by Francis A. Walker Medal
Succeeded by