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Henry Manne on His Intellectual Influences

Henry Manne is a brilliant and original scholar who made important contributions to the literatures on takeovers, insider trading, higher education, and other fields and is a key figure in the modern law-and-economics movement. His contributions were featured in a session of the 2010 Austrian Scholars Conference. Henry has given an interview to the Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society as part of its oral history project. There is an audio file and an edited transcript. He mentions in particular the influence of Mises and Hayek on his thinking:
Because of my dissatisfaction with what developed as my program at Yale, I began doing considerable reading in areas mainly I’d learned from Aaron Director, works of Hayek, whom I had met at Chicago, and Mises. I always used to joke that I was one of the few people in the world who probably sat down and read the whole of Human Action, Mises’ great work on philosophy and economics, which later on, you’ll see, played a role in my intellectual development.
Just before the ’62 article ["The 'Higher Criticism' of the Modern Corporation," Columbia Law Review], probably the seminal intellectual event in my life occurred. I was invited to a small conference for young professors at Claremont College, in which three very distinguished people held seminars for these young professors. One was John [Jewkes] from Oxford, who had taken a very strong position against British socialism, then the Labour government. Another was Felix Morley, who was a political opponent of Roosevelt during the New Deal, a distinguished journalist and political theorist. The third was a then somewhat young economist from UCLA by the name of Armen Alchian. I mentioned before that the Mises I read at Yale in 1952 or 1953 came back in the early sixties, because Alchian began his seminar by reading a paragraph. It was a paragraph about property, and he asked if anyone in the group could identify it. I was the only one; I recognized immediately that that was from Mises’ Human Action. As he developed that first lecture – which became I think one of the most important economic articles of the twentieth century, "Economics of Property Rights" – it was like a light bulb went off in my head, it was incredible. All of a sudden, everything that I had done intellectually for thirteen years came together, with this one idea of Alchian’s about the real nature of property rights and the Misesian notion of people making choices, with every choice being a tradeoff, meaning that there is a cost – what you give away is the cost of what you get.

Peter G. Klein is Carl Menger Research Fellow of the Mises Institute and W. W. Caruth Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.

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