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Chicago. First Epistle Unto the Entering Students. Ca. 1950

 

 

These scriptural apocrypha were found in a folder archived in Milton Friedman’s papers at the Hoover Institution labelled “University of Chicago, Miscellaneous” in which texts from Chicago (economics) performance art had been filed. The First Epistle Unto the Entering Students and First Epistle Unto New Students are clearly of divine inspiration though we are left without any explicit indication of authorship or date. The version designated V2.0 is presumed to be of later origin: the correction of “thou” for “thee” as well as the multiplication of false gods, from “Probability” to “Macro-economics and Probability” seem to fit the proposed sequence.

Confidence intervals for the date of the first appearance of the Epistle should probably include 1950. The Cowles Commission “The American Patrol” song follows immediately in Friedman’s folder and it has been dated to be around 1949 by Carl Christ (JEL, March 1994, p. 34). For this reason I have included course descriptions for the economics courses in 1950-51 specifically mentioned (301 and 302 being standard Frank Knight courses). From the text it would appear that a dissertation writing graduate student at that time could have been the author “for these many months have I spent in the land of Marshall and Pigou, and have felt the weight of prelims on my balding head.” Perhaps a visitor to this page knows the identity of a witty balding graduate student in economics at mid-century Chicago?

The image for this posting is taken from the bottom of the page of the alternate version of the First Epistle. Is there another riddle of the Sphinx?

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First Epistle Unto the Entering Students:
[V1.0]

Lo ye who enter through the gates of admissions, unto the sanctity of the Department, behold its Grace and witness the Truth it gives unto you.

Heed ye well the words of one who is older and wiser than thee, for these many months have I spent in the land of Marshall and Pigou, and have felt the weight of prelims on my balding head.

Beware the course called 302, for therein shalt thou know the deer from the beaver.

Beware also the courses 300 A & B, for they shall try thee sorely. There is a time to speak and there is a time to be silent: be thou silent. Present thyself upon the appointed hour, lest the social cost exceed the private gain and the wrath of the master descend upon thee.

Shun thou the geometer, for he loveth his curves too dearly and seeks to seduce thee therewith. Throw thou his siren song from thy soul, for it lacketh rigor and appeals but to the senses.

Shun thou also the temple of the false god Probability, for therein dwell the Philistines who worship not Marshall. For there shall they descend upon thee with all manner of strange things, and thy head shall whirl in n-dimensions.

Attend carefully upon the course 301, for there if thou learnest nothing else, shalt thou learn at least this—and it shall be a contribution to thy general education.

Avoid thou the seven sins of the classicists and remember as thine own name the five rates of substitution. Confuseth not stocks with flows lest thou spend thy days in the industrial relations center.

Shun thou the welfare economist, for he duly loveth to stick out his neck, and he will teach thee his evil ways.

Disturb not the agricultural economist when he is at his data for he loveth them mightily and will defend them as a lioness her cubs—he heeds not the statistician or the wiseman.

Yea, verily, stray not unto the land of the Hansenites. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Scourge from thy heart the heretics of Keynes. The devil dost appear in the name of the Lord.

Await the coming of the Messiah, for then shall the Pigou effect bring full employment upon the land.

 

FIRST EPISTLE UNTO NEW STUDENTS
[V2.0]

 

  1. To all who enter through the Gate of Admissions unto the sanctity of the Department, heed ye well the words of one who is wiser and older than thou. For verily I have dwelt in the land of Marshall for many months, and have felt the curse of Prelims on my head.
  2. Beware the courses called 300A and 300B, for they will tax thee sorely. They have been devised that the deer may be known from the beaver.
  3. Present thyself upon the appointed hour, lest the social cost exceed the private gain and the wrath of the Master fall upon thee mightily.
  4. Shun thou the geometer, for he seeks to seduce thee with curves. His siren song is pleasant but he lacketh rigor.
  5. Shun thou also the temple of the twin gods, Macro-economics and Probability, for therein dwell the Philistines who worship not Marshall. There wilt thou be set upon with all manner of strange things and thou shalt feel the lash of the mixed strategy upon thee, and thy head shall whirl in n-dimensions.
  6. Treasure thy Marshall, for verily all manner of mysteries are set down therein. Read it well and carefully, but say not that thou hast understood.
  7. Take to thine own bosom the demand curve lest it desert thee in thine hour of need.
  8. Attend well upon the lectures called 301, for there if thou learnest nothing else, shalt thou learn at least one thing and it shall be a contribution to thy general education.
  9. Shun thou the agricultural economist when he is at his data, for he loveth them dearly and will defend them as a lioness her cubs.
  10. Beware also the statistician who will leave thee witless with a pair of dice.
  11. Shun the welfare economist, for he loveth mightily to stick out his neck and will teach thee his evil ways.
  12. Shun thou the Social Science Tea, but study diligently in Harper lest thou and thy end thy days in the Business School.
  13. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Be thou silent in the presence of the Master, for he shall reveal to thee the secrets of Marshall and there shalt thou solve the riddle of the Sphinx.

Source: Hoover Institution Archives. Milton Friedman Papers. Box 79, Folder 6, “University of Chicago, Miscellaneous”.

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ADVANCED COURSES

300A, B. Price Theory. A systematic study of the pricing of final products and factors of production under essentially stationary conditions. Covers both perfect competition and such imperfectly competitive conditions as monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. 300A deals primarily with the pricing of final products; 300B, with the pricing of factors of production. Prereq: for 300A, Econ 209 or equiv and Math 112 or equiv, or consent of instructor. For 300B, Econ 300A. Aut (300A) ThTh 1:30-3:30; Wallis; Win (300A): MWF 1:30; Metzler; Win (300B): TuTh 1:30-3:30; Friedman; Spr (300B): MWF 2:30; Metzler.

301. Price and Distribution Theory. Study of the general body of economic thought which centers about the theory of value and distribution and is regarded as “orthodox theory.” Critical examination of some modern systems of this character. Prereq: Econ 209, Math 112 or equiv, and two years’ work in the Division of Social Sciences, or equiv. Sum: MTuWF 11; Knight.

302. History of Economic Thought. Brief survey of the whole field of economic thought and a more intensive study of the “classical school” of British economists, whose doctrines are studied in relation to the problems and discussions of today. Prereq: Econ 301 or equiv. Spr: TuTh 3:30-5:30; Knight.

 

Source:   The University of Chicago. Announcements, Vol. L, No. 9 (July 20, 1950): The Division of the Social Sciences, Sessions of 1950-1951, pp. 28-29.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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