George P. Shultz: First Oral History for Economist Life Stories

It’s with great anticipation that we announce “Problems and Principles: George P. Shultz and the Uses of Economic Thinking,” the first oral history in a new project called Economist Life Stories, featuring in-depth interviews with some of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. George Shultz is perhaps best known for his public service. He was appointed Secretary of Labor, the first Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of the Treasury during the Nixon Administration, and later became Secretary of State during the Reagan Administration. But before that, he was professor of economics and dean of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. Mr. Shultz talks at length about his years at Chicago, but a thread throughout this life history is the economist’s way of thinking about and understanding the world. Most importantly, from his military service in World War II to his far-ranging policy analysis since he left public life, Mr. Shultz speaks of the importance of moving past ideological positions to work with others to solve concrete problems.

The interviews were conducted by Paul Burnett at the Hoover Institution in sessions over four days in September of 2015. Hodson Thornber and Paul Burnett organized the project with Toni Shears of the Becker Friedman Institute, with important support from an advisory group of historians and economists.

Financial support for this work was provided by Richard Elden, a member of the Becker Friedman Institute Council, whose contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

Although this project focuses on the leaders and students of the University of Chicago Department of Economics, the Graduate School of Business, and the Law School, we hope to add more stories from economists around the world as the project expands. In December, we will launch the second interview in this project, with economist Arnold Harberger.