The Passage from Classical to Neo-Liberalism: Frank H. Knight's Role Re-Considered

39 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2011

See all articles by Ross B. Emmett

Ross B. Emmett

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: March 6, 2011

Abstract

Where should we place Frank Knight in the passage from classical liberalism to neo-liberalism? The argument has recently been made by that Knight should be placed among the group of liberals of an “older generation” that neo-liberals generally, and the Chicago School in particular, separated themselves from as neo-liberalism was built in the postwar period. In order to examine Knight’s place, the essay looks at an under-utilized source for Knight’s work: his 1958 lectures to the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Political Economy at the University of Virginia, which were published in 1960 under the title Intelligence and Democratic Action. In style and content, the 1958 lectures stand apart from similar lecture series delivered in the 1930s, and they also benefit from a clear explication of his comparative historical approach to the study of social economic organization. But the core of the book is his conception of interlocking nature of the politics, economics and ethics of liberalism. Knight’s liberalism is explored here with specific attention paid to the ways in which it is similar to, or different from, neo-liberalism. The result is mixed: in several key ways Knight different significantly from the neo-liberalism, but in several policy areas his conclusions are quite similar. In fact, while the philosophical differences do reinforce the argument that he is not among their number, the fact that his teaching of Chicago economists often drew upon the economic policy arguments that he shared with them suggests that he may have had more of a role in the development of neoliberal policy that the recent studies imply.

Keywords: Frank H. Knight, Frank Knight, Neo-Liberalism, Chicago School of Economics

JEL Classification: B29, B31, A12, A13

Suggested Citation

Emmett, Ross B., The Passage from Classical to Neo-Liberalism: Frank H. Knight's Role Re-Considered (March 6, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1779102 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1779102

Ross B. Emmett (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty ( email )

CPCOMM 4th Floor
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
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Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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