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Leland Yeager turns 90

Leland Yeager (courtesy of the Cato Instiitute)
Leland Yeager (courtesy of the Cato Instiitute)

Leland B. Yeager turns 90 years old today. He 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, he 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.

Prof. Yeager has many talents. One is for languages. He 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. Still another, as will be evident from some of the testimonials below, is for teaching. As one who saw him in action wrote, “This stuff was dynamite. 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.)

Prof. Yeager’s 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 90th year.

George Selgin collected the essays by Prof. Yeager likely to be of most interest to readers of this blog in The Fluttering Veil: Essays on Monetary Disequilibrium. Roger Koppl edited a festschrift called Money and Markets: Essays in Honor of Leland B. Yeager. It reprints the most delightful portrait I know of any economist, “The Yeager Mystique,” by his former students William Breit, Kenneth Elzinga, and Thomas D. Willett. For those who want to dig deeper, there is plenty more.

Appreciations of Prof. Yeager written especially for this blog follow below. Later I will post links above to appreciations elsewhere.