Economist Life Stories

The history of transformative economic insights developed at the University of Chicago is long, rich, and deep—but not well known outside scholarly circles.

To preserve and highlight the history of economic inquiry at the University of Chicago, the Becker Friedman Institute launched an effort to capture the memories, reflections, and contributions of distinguished senior economists associated with the school.

The institute partnered with the Oral History Center at the University of California Berkeley Bancroft Library to videotape extensive, professionally conducted interviews. The resulting video and transcripts archive this invaluable first-hand knowledge for posterity and other researchers.

The transcripts and video excerpts are posted here and on the Berkeley Library web site, with more to come. 

George P. Shultz

The first interviews were conducted with George P. Shultz. Perhaps best known for his service as secretary of labor, treasury, and then State, Shultz was previously a professor of economics and dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. In these interviews, he reflects on how Chicago-style economic thinking shaped his approach to public policy.

Sample video

Full transcript

Arnold Harberger

Comprehensive and wide-ranging interviews with Arnold Harberger, Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, are also available. Harberger, now a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, made many contributions to public finance. The interviews explore his explores his 65-year career in technical assistance and education around the world, consulting for the US government and individual nation states, as well as international development and financial institutions such as the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. We also trace his career as a scholar, from his training and interest in international trade to his work in public finance, especially project evaluation and benefit-cost analysis. and professor of economics at University of California, Los Angeles.

Sample video

Full transcript


Financial support for this work was provided by Richard Elden, a member of the Becker Friedman Institute Council, whose contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

We also acknowledge council member Hodson Thornber for spearheading the effort and Paul Burnett of Bancroft Library for conducting and producing the videos.