Alchian and 'the Alchian thesis'

Journal of Economic Methodology 2 (2):281-286 (1995)
Armen Alchian's article ?Uncertainty, evolution and economic theory? is widely acknowledged as a classic contribution to economics. Its prominence is due in part to Milton Friedman citing it as an influence on his thesis that processes of natural selection produce profit-maximising firms, and this in turn has been widely labelled ?The Alchian-Friedman Argument? or ?The Alchian thesis? in the economic literature. In fact, ?The Alchian thesis? - that natural selection produces profit-maximising firms - is one to which Alchian did not subscribe. It was instead a doctrine which he carefully and clearly rejected. This paper provides a necessary corrective to the widespread misrepresentation of Alchian's views. It is suggested that the major reason for the misrepresentation is that Friedman's interpretation of Alchian views have been accepted at face value without proper attention being given to what Alchian actually said.
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