Other appreciations of Leland Yeager
Leland Yeager (courtesy of the Cato Instiitute)
Leland Yeager (courtesy of the Cato Instiitute)
Leland B. Yeager turns 90 years old today.
has done notable work in monetary theory-most important for this blog, laissez faire monetary systems-international monetary economics, trade, ethics, and languages.
After high school he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, translating Japanese coded messages.
He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.
Following a brief stint at the University of Maryland
taught for nearly three decades at the University of Virginia
, where he
was part of the economics dream team that included James Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Gordon Tullock, and G. Warren Nutter.
Yeager finished his career at Auburn University, where he was Ludwig von Mises Distinguished Professor of Economics.
He is now an emeritus professor of that institution.
has many talents.
One is for languages.
knows languages as diverse as Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, and Sanskrit, as well as the usual major Western European languages that American economists sometimes knew before academic economics became largely monolingual.
Another of his
talents is for writing.
Deidre McCloskey has cited Yeager
as one of the best living stylists of economics-a low bar, but one that Yeager
clears with plenty of room.
Students quickly realized that Yeager
had it all and anyone with half a brain knew that they had a once in a lifetime chance to wrap up the whole damn subject-if they could just get every word he
uttered written down.
(Remember, it was decades before the iPad and other digital recording devices.)
magnum opus is his
book International Monetary Relations: Theory, History and Policy.
It looks like a textbook, but is actually an exceptionally lucid treatise that wrapped up the whole damn subject for its time (1969, second edition in 1976).
Although nearly 40 years old, the book remains unequaled for the skill with which it weaves together the strands of theory, history and policy.
I am pleased to announce that the Center for Financial Stability
is working to make it available electronically later in Prof. Yeager's
Roger Koppl edited a festschrift called Money and Markets: Essays in Honor of Leland B. Yeager
Appreciations of Prof. Yeager
written especially for this blog follow below.
Leland Yeager, by Robert Greenfield
Paul Einzig, author of more than 50 books on foreign exchange, called Yeager's
International Monetary Relations: History and Theory "a book of outstanding importance…. [T]he best book on foreign exchange that has appeared since the war."
Richard Timberlake, eminent historian of U.S. monetary policy, called Yeager's "Essential Properties of the Medium of Exchange" (Kyklos, February 1968) "one of the twentieth century's ten most important articles on monetary theory."
The editors of Economic Inquiry called Yeager's
"Toward Understanding Some Paradoxes in Capital Theory" (September 1976) their journal's article of the year.
Instead, I'll conclude by mentioning a tribute whose very title shows the esteem in which Yeager
is held by colleagues and students alike-"The Yeager Mystique
: The Polymath as Teacher" (William Breit, Kenneth Elzinga, and Thomas Willett, Eastern Economic Journal
, Spring 1996).
Leland Yeager, by Jim Dorn
Leland Yeager has been a guiding light in instilling in his students and colleagues the logic of the price system, whether it be in advanced price theory, which he taught at the University of Virginia when I was a Ph.D. student, or international trade.
appreciation for the institutional infrastructure of a market system was clearly seen in his
teaching and in his
discipline and love of learning is legendary.
On this his
90th birthday, we can all be thankful for his
many contributions to the economics profession and for his
friendship over the years.
Happy birthday, Leland!
Leland Yeager, by Kenneth Elzinga
My first reaction was: a lifetime of scholarship of the highest order.
My second reaction: what a privilege to have been a colleague of Leland's when he was on the faculty at the University of Virginia-where so much of his exemplary scholarship took place.
My third reaction: what an honor to be counted among Leland's friends.
In everyday language, a "know it all" is a pejorative expression.
But in the case of Leland Yeager
, the expression "know it all" applies in a positive way.
Not that Leland
is omniscient; no person is.
What struck me and my colleagues about Leland
is that he
genuinely knows so much-about economics, about languages, about current events, about philosophy-about most everything that an educated person might try to comprehend.
Graduate students at the University of Virginia
appreciated the fact that Leland
took teaching very seriously.
Students recognized that if they could "get it all down," and then digest Leland
's classroom material, they would have a good understanding of any topic Leland was teaching that day.
In an academic culture that sometimes places a premium on cleverness, Leland
always exhibits a passion for truth and sound thinking.
Those of us who know him could not imagine him dissembling.
Truth really matters to Leland
Leland Yeager, by Warren Coats
Leland Yeager, by Roger Koppl
I can recall the first time I saw Leland
, though I did not meet him then.
We all found it hard to honor this last prohibition when, at a certain point, Leland
exclaimed forcefully, "What's all this about 'You can't predict'?
Mises spent his
whole life predicting!
We wanted to cheer.
Later I came to Auburn University
to study under Leland
I learned lots of economics from Leland Yeager
Looking back, though, I think the greatest lesson I learned was the value of fancy-free economics.
The core of the enterprise is price theory, verbal price theory that pays attention to who does what and whether your model makes human sense.
That's fancy-free economics.
And in the hands of a master like Leland
, it is deep and sophisticated economics.
It is what Bruce Caldwell calls "basic economic reasoning," which he
defines as "the sort of reasoning that economists utilize all the time in the classroom."
also taught me how to pronounce Italian words.
knew I would soon be getting married in Rome and wanted to help me prepare.
It seemed a dubious skill to properly pronounce words I could not understand.
How would that help me with my Italian in-laws?
I worked on it, though, out of love and respect for my teacher.
Later, I was able to pick up enough Italian to talk to those in-laws.
I think Leland
realized that if you can discriminate among the sounds, you can pick up the language even without formal training.
I am a poor student.
My economics is still too fancy and I still speak a rather poor and broken Italian.
But if I have made some progress on either front, the credit goes to Leland Yeager
Leland Yeager, by David Tuerck
was by far the best teacher I had in my Ph.D. program at Virginia.
also offered me the dream opportunity, as a graduate student, to co-author a book with him, entitled Trade Policy and the Price System (and later, Foreign Trade and U.S. Policy).
I wish him many happy returns.
Leland Yeager, by Thomas D. Willett
That's hard for me to believe.
It seems only a short while ago that I was sitting in his
classes in awe of the way that he
would take extremely complicated articles and show us their core arguments and key factors on which they depended.
The clarity of mind needed to do that is an all too rare commodity.
By example he
taught us what it was like to think clearly and with intellectual honesty.
One should learn both sides of any professional dispute.
was no Keynesian but he
made sure that we understood the main Keynesian arguments.
Indeed I found that I had learned from him better than many of my colleagues from other universities who had studied with Keynesian oriented professors.
Besides teaching us how to do economics, he
gave us insights into many economic issues, such as the integration of absorption, elasticity and monetary approaches to the effects of exchange rate adjustments, which are still relevant to current debates.
I have been blessed with being mentored by a number of fine economists in school and beyond.
None taught me more about how to be an economist than Leland Yeager.