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Robert Van Horn, Ph.D.
Department of Economics

At present, Professor Van Horn's research interests include researching: 1) the life and work of Aaron Director (a renowned Chicago economist who is considered the father of Chicago Law and Economics), 2) the history of the Chicago School and the history of neoliberalism, 3) best practices in teaching the history of economics, and 4) the role that businesspersons have played in the development of economics.

Here is a more detailed description:

            1) Researching the life of Aaron Director.  During my first four academic years at URI, I have written multiple papers on Director; one was published in History of Political Economy (Winter 2010) and another just came out in Journal of History of Economic Thought (Fall 2013).  I have also written papers that dealt substantially with Director’s work, such as my articles in the Seattle Law Review, Journal for the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and Journal of Economic Methodology.  Over the next few years, I plan to write several more articles and book chapters on Director based on archival evidence that I have unearthed.  One of my working papers, “Aaron Director and the Labor Education Movement,” will be one of these; after the summer of 2012 I set the paper aside and plan to return to it very soon to incorporate valuable feedback I received from several historians of economics.  Ultimately, I plan to write the definitive biography on this seminal figure in the history of economics.  
            2) The history of the Chicago School and the history of neoliberalism.  During the 2011-2012 academic year, my edited volume entitled Building Chicago Economics came out.  Here is a brief description of the book and the substantial contribution it makes to the field: Many historical accounts of the Chicago School claim it was primarily the product of the “spontaneous order” of the free market.  These historical accounts rely principally on an “oral tradition” created by past members and lack a balanced engagement with archival and secondary sources.  The archival-based research in this book challenges these accounts, contending that a number of factors need to be considered to understand the rise of the postwar Chicago School.  Research institutes, corporate funds, cross-disciplinary ventures, attracting young promising researchers, general public education, and business-academe relationships were all crucial to the postwar trajectory of the Chicago School; it was, the book contends, constructed, not spontaneously formed.  
            In this spirit of this book, I have been researching the role corporations played in the rise of the Chicago School in the 1950s.  The title of this paper is  “Corporate Funding, Edward Levi, and the Rise of Chicago Law and Economics in the 1950s.”  I recently presented a paper I drafted on this topic at the Political Economy Seminar at URI in February 2013, at the History of Political Economy Seminar at Duke University in March 2013, and at the Law and Society Association meeting in May 2013.  I plan to present this paper at a special presidential session at the Social Science History Association conference in November 2013.
            3) Researching the best practices in teaching the history of economics.  For example, I have explored ways of using music to teach the history of economic thought.  I wrote a paper with Monica Van Horn—a graduate student and adjunct professor in URI’s Education Department.  In Winter 2013, our paper was published in the Journal of Economic Education.  Additionally, I recently helped Duke University’s Center for the History of Political Economy put together a website that provides an array of teaching material on the History of Economic Thought.  I anticipate that this will be the definitive resource for teaching the History of Economic Thought in the world.  Avi Cohen (York University) and I gathered, selected, and edited the materials that are presented.  In the coming years, I plan to explore how to teach the history of economics in an engaging manner in my principles of economics course.
            4) Conducting research on the role that businesspersons have played in the history of economics. While there has been a good deal work done on how businesspersons have influenced policy or politics and how business buttressed the development of economic thought through funding, there has been relatively very little done on how businesspersons have actively participated in constructing economic doctrines or what businesspersons thought about select topics in economics and how they used their understanding to engage and challenge economists. My paper, “Corporate Funding, Edward Levi, and the Rise of Chicago Law and Economics in the 1950s,” attempts to begin to fulfill this historical gap.  Additionally, in the hope of furthering scholarly research on this topic, Edward Nik-Khah and I are currently in the process of organizing a one-day conference at Duke University for the fall of 2013.

To date, he has published in following journals: History of Political Economy, International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, University of Seattle Law Review, Journal of Economic Methodology, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Journal of Economic Education, and Social Studies of Science.

Work in Progress

Papers:

"Aaron Director and the Labor Education Movement (1924-1927)"

"Chicago School(s) of Democratic Capitalism" (with Ross Emmett)

"Hayek and the Chicago School"

"Debating the Foundations of Freedom, Alexander Meiklejohn versus Aaron Director"

"Corporate Funding, Edward Levi, and the Rise of Chicago Law and Economics in the 1950s"

 

 

Dr. Robert Van Horn
University of Rhode Island
814 Chafee Hall
Kingston, RI 02881
rvanhorn@mail.uri.edu