Benjamin Anderson

Benjamin Anderson

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Benjamin McAlester Anderson, Jr. (May 1, 1886 – January 19, 1949) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

 in the Austrian
Austrian School
The Austrian School of economics is a heterodox school of economic thought. It advocates methodological individualism in interpreting economic developments , the theory that money is non-neutral, the theory that the capital structure of economies consists of heterogeneous goods that have...

 tradition of Carl Menger
Carl Menger
Carl Menger was the founder of the Austrian School of economics, famous for contributing to the development of the theory of marginal utility, which contested the cost-of-production theories of value, developed by the classical economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo.- Biography :Menger...


Early life and education

Benjamin Anderson was born in Columbia, Missouri
Columbia, Missouri
Columbia is the fifth-largest city in Missouri, and the largest city in Mid-Missouri. With a population of 108,500 as of the 2010 Census, it is the principal municipality of the Columbia Metropolitan Area, a region of 164,283 residents. The city serves as the county seat of Boone County and as the...

 to Benjamin McLean Anderson, a businessman and a politician. When he was sixteen years old, Anderson enrolled in classes at the University of Missouri
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri System is a state university system providing centralized administration for four universities, a health care system, an extension program, five research and technology parks, and a publishing press. More than 64,000 students are currently enrolled at its four campuses...

 in his hometown and earned his A.B.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in 1906. After receiving his bachelor's degree, Anderson accepted an appointment as professor of political economy and sociology at Missouri Valley College
Missouri Valley College
Missouri Valley College is a private, four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church . The campus is in Marshall, Missouri.The college was founded in 1889 and supports 27 academic majors and an enrollment close to 1,800 students...

, where he remained for a year before becoming head of the department of political economy and sociology at the State Normal School (later known as Missouri State University
Missouri State University
Missouri State University is a public university located in Springfield, Missouri, United States and founded in 1905. It is the state's second largest university, with an official enrollment of 20,802 in fall 2011...

) in Springfield, Missouri
Springfield, Missouri
Springfield is the third largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and the county seat of Greene County. According to the 2010 census data, the population was 159,498, an increase of 5.2% since the 2000 census. The Springfield Metropolitan Area, population 436,712, includes the counties of...


Anderson soon became a degree-seeking student again, this time pursuing his A.M.
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

. He completed his master's degree in 1910 and finished his Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 only a year later. Part of his dissertation was later published as Social Value: A Study in Economic Theory, Critical and Constructive.


After earning his doctoral degree, Anderson taught at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and then Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. During this time he penned his Value of Money, a critique of the quantity theory of money
Quantity theory of money
In monetary economics, the quantity theory of money is the theory that money supply has a direct, proportional relationship with the price level....

. He left Harvard to join New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

's National Bank of Commerce in 1918.

He remained with NBC for only two years, however, before Chase National Bank hired him as an economist and as the new editor of the bank's Chase Economic Bulletin. It was during this time that the scope of Anderson's writing widened to include
...articles critical of progressive policy in such diverse areas as money, credit, international economic policy, agriculture, taxation, war, government debt, and economic planning. He was a leading opponent of the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 and an enthusiastic supporter of a free market gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...


In 1939, Anderson again entered the academic community, this time as a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

. He held this position until his death (from a heart attack) in 1949.

Academic influence

Henry Hazlitt
Henry Hazlitt
Henry Stuart Hazlitt was an American economist, philosopher, literary critic and journalist for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The American Mercury, Newsweek, and The New York Times...

, who is often cited as having popularized Austrian economics in the English-speaking world, credits Anderson with acquainting him with the work of Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the "Austrian School" of economic thought.-Biography:-Early life:...

 and other Austrians. Explains Hazlitt,
I was very lucky in my friendships and lucky in the books I chose. I read a book by Benjamin M. Anderson, whom I later got to know. This was his 1917 book The Value of Money. He was an acute critic of nearly all other writers on money, and especially of Irving Fisher
Irving Fisher
Irving Fisher was an American economist, inventor, and health campaigner, and one of the earliest American neoclassical economists, though his later work on debt deflation often regarded as belonging instead to the Post-Keynesian school.Fisher made important contributions to utility theory and...

 and his mechanical quantity theory of money. Mac Anderson read German, and discussed many German writers on money. He referred to the German edition of Ludwig von Mises's
Theory of Money and Credit
The Theory of Money and Credit
The Theory of Money and Credit is an economics book written by Ludwig von Mises, originally published in German as Theorie des Geldes und der Umlaufsmittel in 1912...

and wrote: 'In von Mises there seems to me to be very noteworthy clarity and power. His Theorie des Geldes und der Umlaufsmittel is an exceptionally excellent book.' That impressed me.

According to Mises, Anderson was "one of the outstanding characters in this age of the supremacy of time-servers."

Outside of Austrian circles, though, Anderson's writings encountered a cooler reception from the then-dominant Progressives
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

, who disagreed with his calls for reducing government intervention in the market. According to Henry Hazlitt, Anderson was dismayed by the popular political and theoretical trends that ran counter to the positions that he espoused.
[H]e did become embittered. I remember he was at my house when Landon
Alf Landon
Alfred Mossman "Alf" Landon was an American Republican politician, who served as the 26th Governor of Kansas from 1933–1937. He was best known for being the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States, defeated in a landslide by Franklin D...

 was running for President against FDR. As the radio returns came rolling in, Mac shook his head and said, "This is the mob." He was very depressed, but I don't think his writing was ever bitter. It remained analytical and objective.

Personal life

Anderson was a skilled chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

 player and penned the preface to José Raúl Capablanca
José Raúl Capablanca
José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was a Cuban chess player who was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. One of the greatest players of all time, he was renowned for his exceptional endgame skill and speed of play...

's A Primer of Chess (1935).


  • Social Value: A Study in Economic Theory Critical and Constructive (1911)
  • The Value of Money (1917) (e-text)
  • Effects of the War on Money, Credit and Banking in France and the U.S. (1919)
  • Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946 (1949) (e-text)

External links

  • Anderson, Benjamin. "Cheap Money, Gold, and Federal Reserve Bank Policy." Chase Economic Bulletin. Vol. 4-3. 4 August 1924.
  • Blanchette, Jude. "Anderson, Hazlitt, and the Quantity Theory of Money." Journal of Libertarian Studies
    Journal of Libertarian Studies
    The Journal of Libertarian Studies is a scholarly journal published annually by the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell. It was established in the spring of 1977 by Murray Rothbard who also served as its editor until his death in 1995...

    . Vol. 19-1. Winter 2005.
  • Ebeling, Richard
    Richard Ebeling
    Richard M. Ebeling is an American libertarian author, and was president of the Foundation for Economic Education from 2003 to 2008....

    . "Benjamin Anderson and the False Goal of Price-Level Stabilization." Monetary Central Planning and the State. Future of Freedom Foundation
    Future of Freedom Foundation
    The Future of Freedom Foundation is a nonprofit libertarian advocacy group based in Fairfax, Virginia. It was founded by libertarian author and former defense attorney Jacob G...

    . April 1997.