Robert Ekelund

Last updated
Robert Burton Ekelund Jr.
Robert Ekelund.jpg
Born (1940-09-20) September 20, 1940 (age 81)
Institution Auburn University
FieldApplied and cultural economics
Alma mater St. Mary's University, Texas
Louisiana State University
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Robert Burton Ekelund Jr. (born 1940) is an American economist.



Originally from Galveston, Texas, Ekelund attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, earning his BBA in economics in 1962 and his MA in economics and history the next year. He was a member of the Order of the Barons and first worked as an instructor in economics while completing his master's degree.

He then moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to teach and continue his graduate work at Louisiana State University. He finished his PhD in economics and political theory there in 1967. His doctoral dissertation was on Jules Dupuit, a French civil engineer and economist. Ekelund would maintain this interest in Dupuit, making him the topic of a dozen journal articles and a 1999 book, Secret Origins of Modern Microeconomics: Dupuit and the Engineers.


In 1967, after the completion of his PhD, Ekelund was hired by Texas A&M University economics department. He was made Professor of Economics in 1974 and remained on the faculty of the College Station, Texas school until 1979, when he moved to Auburn, Alabama to become a professor at Auburn University. Ekelund was a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and in 2003 he served as the Vernon Taylor Distinguished Visiting Professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Ekelund is now Catherine and Edward Lowder Eminent Scholar Emeritus at Auburn University and is a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute. [1] He is also an Independent Institute research fellow [2] and an adjunct faculty member of the Mises Institute. [3]

Significance in economics

Economic topics notably discussed by Ekelund include cultural economics, the history of economic thought, the economics of regulation, the economics of religion, public choice theory, mercantilism, and the economics of the American Civil War blockades.

Textbooks by Ekelund have sold successfully with his and Robert Tollison's basic book, "Economics" now in its seventh edition. One of Ekelund's primary interests centers on the history of economic theory and its relevance to contemporary economic theory and policy. His book with Robert Hebert, "A History of Economic Theory and Method" has entered its sixth edition and the fifth decade of continual publication. The book illustrates how models can facilitate the analysis of economic theory as well as its interaction with both ancient and contemporary psychology, sociology, anthropology, and culture. This book, with various editions translated into five languages, remains a primary source in the development of modern economic theory.

His interests in the economics of regulation were combined with Sir Edwin Chadwick's historical study[ citation needed ] in 2012. Chadwick's sophisticated 19th-century conceptions of moral hazard, common pool problems, asymmetric information, and theory of "competition for the field" of service (franchising) were pioneering concepts in contemporary theory but were only rediscovered in the second half of the 20th century. Ekelund along with E. O. Price chronicled these stark innovations in a recent book entitled The Economics of Edwin Chadwick: Incentives Matter. According to Professor Sam Peltzman of the University of Chicago, "Economists owe a great debt to Ekelund and Price for making us aware of Edwin Chadwick's seminal contributions. Chadwick lived in the middle of the 19th century, but he anticipated many of the theoretical and practical advances that culminated in the law and economics revolution of the late 20th century. These include Coase's analysis of social cost and Demsetz's proposal for franchise bidding in natural monopolies. Read the summary of Chadwick's ideas about railroads and consider that Britain adopted many of them but only more than a century later. The book is full of similar examples where Chadwick's prescience is extraordinary. Economists, legal scholars and practitioners, especially those working at the intersection of law and economics, will want to read this book." [4]

Ekelund's 1981 book with Tollison, Mercantilism as a Rent-Seeking Society, is cited as an exemplar of the school of thought that argues that mercantilism, rather than being the result of miscalculation, was a system designed by rent-seekers to enforce public policy favorable towards themselves. [5]

Dupuit and the French engineers

His 1999 collaboration with Hébert, Secret Origins of Modern Microeconomics, has been praised for publicizing the theoretical and applied achievements of Jules Dupuit and others whose work in economics was often previously overlooked as mere engineering literature. In his review, economist Marcel Boumans of the University of Amsterdam asserts, "For too long they were neglected in the history of economics. Ekelund and Hebert's tribute to their work remedies this shortcoming." [6] According to a July 1999 book review in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology,

The book succeeds in staking out a claim for Dupuit as one of the founders of formal economic theory and reasoning. This is a stellar performance and a book that will shake up the historiography of the discipline for decades to come. At future professional meetings we shall debate the origins of modern neoclassical economics: British or French? [7]

According to Nicos Theocarakis of the University of Athens,

This is a beauty of a book! Erudite, well-researched, with a detailed knowledge of the primary sources, original, and high on economic analysis. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It requires a good knowledge of economic theory and an interest in the History of Ideas. It also gives a first rate account of the history of the period and the history of institutions in pre- and post-revolutionary France that have created this strange beast: the French engineer whose skills made him attack from a formal and theoretical viewpoint practical problems. It certainly puts modern neoclassical microeconomics in a historical perspective. . . . A must for anyone with a serious interest in the subject! [8]

Economics of religion

Sacred Trust and The Marketplace of Christianity have both spawned debate among those interested in one of the latest new "fields" in economics—the economics of religion. Economist John Wells argues in his March 1998 Journal of Markets and Morality review of Sacred Trust that,

The upshot from each of the chapters is that the Church consistently sought after profits and responded to economic incentives in a manner consonant with modern economic analysis. Taken as a whole, they propose numerous challenges to those who maintain a public-interest approach to Church history. [9]

In his Chronicle of Higher Education review of The Marketplace of Christianity, David Glenn notes that arguments in the book that Westerners have demanded "cheaper" religions over time are at odds with assertions by economist Laurence R. Iannaccone that "strict churches are strong." [10] Barry R. Chiswick in his 2009 review of the book in the Journal of Economic Literature, notes that Ekelund and his cohorts use income, education, the state of science and full price of alternative religious beliefs to predict the types of religions chosen. Factors affecting demand and risk profiles between mainline Protestant religions, on the one hand, and fundamentalist and traditionalist Roman Catholics, on the other relate the issues of sex, including sexual behavior and identity (e.g., premarital sex, homosexuality and procreation (e.g., birth control, abortion). These issues are dividing Christianity within the developed countries, and between Christians in the developed and less-developed countries. It is because of sharp differences in views on these issues and doctrinal rigidity that schisms have emerged in some Protestant denominations and [the authors] predict a schism (or several schisms) in the Roman Catholic Church. These schisms, responding to heterogeneous demanders, increase the extent of product differentiation in this market. [11]

Chiswick concludes that schisms are beneficial and that "[t]hese ideas seem to be particularly relevant in the current period where religious fundamentalism and liberalism/individualism are clashing to various degrees in all the world's religions. The application of microeconomic theory that is so successfully applied here to one major development in Christianity can, in principle, be applied to these other religions as well." [11]

Building upon previous research Ekelund and Robert Tollison's "prequel" entitled Economic Origins of Roman Christianity draws upon the economics of networking, entrepreneurship, and industrial organization to explain Christianity's rapid ascent in the presence of Jewish and pagan competitors. The book introduces St. Paul as an entrepreneur, Constantine as a political strategist and the Merovingian and Carolingian monarchs as players with the Roman papacy to enhance the church's power and dominance over much of Western Europe—culminating in a virtual monopoly during the high Middle Ages. According to Professor Rachel M. McCleary of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Economic Origins is "An engrossing and insightful account of the branding of early Christianity through entrepreneurship, networking, manipulation of civil governments, and the control of entry into the Roman religion market. This is a major contribution to the study of religion, giving us a fresh, analytical approach to early Christianity and how it became the powerful medieval church." [12]

Cultural economics

The interface between culture and economics, including the study of specific markets and institutions relating to art and museums, caught the interest of economists, including Ekelund, decades ago. Economist David Throsby established "cultural economics" in the hierarchy of the American Economic Association's index of topics considered "economics" in 1994. [13] Ekelund has been associated with such studies for several decades, conducting studies with colleagues in the late 20th and early 21st centuries using a small auction sample of Latin American art. [14] [15] Later, with colleagues and an acute interest in American art, he analyzed a database of 14,000 observations on 80 American artists born in the 19th and 20th centuries. A series of contributions was followed by a book, The Economics of American Art: Issues, Artists and Market Institutions, published in 2017. [16] The book studies a number of critical issues including (a) how the market for American art developed historically from colonial times to the present; (b) how the age of an American artist is related to her productivity; (c) how returns to art investment in the pre-1950 and contemporary periods compare to other types of investments; (d) the economic underpinnings of art crime, such as theft and the creation of fakes; and (e) how the "bubble" observed in art markets is facilitated by the institutions through which art is marketed.

David Throsby of Macquarie University comments that

the book is an exemplary illustration of the way in which economics, when competently and sensitively applied, can illuminate important aspects of the role of art in human affairs. [17]

Kathryn Graddy of Brandeis University and editor of the Journal of Cultural Economics, argues that the authors' approach is

unique … and should be of keen interest to collectors of American art, firms interest in art as an investment, and students that are interested in both American Art and the economics surrounding the sales of art. [18]

Ekelund, in addition to his studies of art and economics, has also analyzed some of the economic factors affecting museums, including contemporary art bubbles and attendance related to the business cycle, [19] and studied the effect of the hypothetical elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts on museums and the arts generally. [20] [21]

Fine arts

In addition to his work in economics, Ekelund is an artist [22] [23] who has shown regularly in juried and other shows over the past two decades with solo and joint exhibitions in Alabama. Ekelund has also designed book covers for the University of Chicago Press and Edward Elgar Publishing in London. He is an avid art collector and curator whose collection has been exhibited in several museums. [24] He was a founding member of the advisory board for the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn, Alabama and was the museum's acting co-director from 2006 to 2007 and chairman of the Advisory Board from 2010 to 2012. [25]

He is also a classically trained pianist and has recorded five albums: Solace (also called For the Piano); Reverie; Bach, Beethoven, Brahms; Musical Idioms; and Reflections on Childhood, performing works by Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Debussy, Ravel, Grieg, Griffes, Scott Joplin, Turina, Granados, Gershwin, and others. He has been a contestant in the 2008, [26] 2009, [27] 2012, [28] and 2014 [29] Van Cliburn Amateur Competition, and he created an homage to Chopin's 200th birthday. [30] Many piano works, including his Van Cliburn entries, appear on his YouTube channel.


As author
As editor

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  1. "Heartland Policy Advisors: Complete List By Name." Heartland Institute. 31 May 2005.
  2. "Research Fellows: About Us: The Independent Institute". Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  3. "Faculty Members."
  4. "Review: The Economics of Edwin Chadwick: Incentives Matter". Amazon.
  5. Niehans, Jürg. A History of Economic Theory: Classic Contributions, 1720–1980. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
  6. Boumans, Marcel. "Review of Robert B. Ekelund Jr. and Robert F. Hebert Secret Origins of Modern Microeconomics: Dupuit and the Engineers". Economic History Services. 13 July 1999.
  7. "Review: Secret Origins of Modern Microeconomics: Dupuit and the Engineers". The American Journal of Economics and Sociology . July 1999.
  8. "Review: Secret Origins of Modern Microeconomics: Dupuit and the Engineers". Nicos Theocarakis March 28, 2000 .
  9. Wells, John. "Book Review: Sacred Trust: The Medieval Church as an Economic Firm". Journal of Markets and Morality. March 1998. Archived 2006-05-12 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Glenn, David (2006-11-03). "The Supply and Demand of Salvation". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ISSN   0009-5982 . Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  11. 1 2 Chiswick, Barry R. "Book Review: The Marketplace for Christianity." Journal of Economic Literature. June 2009. pp. 482-541.
  12. Rachel M. McCleary, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  13. David Throsby, "The Production and Consumption of the Arts: A View of Cultural Economics." Journal of Economic Literature 32: 1-29.
  14. "Estimates, Bias and 'No-Sales' in Latin-American Art Auctions, 1977-1996: A Note," Journal of Cultural Economics (1998), with R. W. Ressler and J. K. Watson, pp. 1–10.
  15. "The 'Death Effect' in Art Prices: A Demand-Side Exploration," Journal of Cultural Economics 24(2000), 283-300 with Rand Ressler and John Keith Watson.
  16. The Economics of American Art: Issues, Artists and Market Institutions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, with John D. Jackson and Robert D. Tollison.
  17. The Economics of American Art: Issues, Artists and Market Institutions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, with John D. Jackson and Robert D. Tollison. Back dust jacket.
  18. The Economics of American Art: Issues, Artists and Market Institutions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, with John D. Jackson and Robert D. Tollison. Back dust jacket.
  19. "Art Museum Attendance, Public Funding and the Business Cycle," American Journal of Economics and Sociology (April 2009): 491-516, with Sarah Skinner and John D. Jackson.
  20. "Why the booming contemporary art market is bad for art museums More money, more problems." Washington Post . 4 August 2016
  21. "Should the National Endowment for the Arts be abolished?" In Alan Greenblatt, "Funding the Arts," Congressional Quarterly Researcher. July 15, 2017. 27L581-604.
  22. "Bob Ekelund." Exhibiting Members Gallery. Watercolor Society of Alabama.
  23. "Bob Ekelund." Carlisle Gallery
  24. "November 2004 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center". Hispania News.
  25. Lynch, J. Frank. "Two named interim directors of Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University." Opelika-Auburn News. 29 March 2006.
  26. "Bob Ekelund for Cliburn Amateur." April 28, 2008 on YouTube
  27. "Bob Ekelund for 2009 Cliburn Amateur." on YouTube
  28. "Bob Ekelund for 2012 Cliburn Amateur." on YouTube
  29. "Bob Ekelund for 2012 Cliburn Amateur." on YouTube
  30. "Chopin Waltz Op. 70, No. 2 (F minor)." on YouTube