Frank Hyneman Knight was a prominent American economist and one of the founders of the Chicago school of economics. His books and articles were and continue to be significant contributions to the study and understanding of economics. In fact, he was dubbed one of the “American saints in economics" because of his contributions.
Throughout his career, Frank Hyneman Knight published many articles and books. Risk, Uncertainty and Profit is considered one of the most important books on economics to this day.
“Costs merely register competing attractions.” - Risk, Uncertainty and Profit
“I have been increasingly moved to wonder whether my job is a job or a racket, whether economists, and particularly economic theorists, may not be in the position that Cicero, citing Cato, ascribed to the augurs of Rome that they should cover their faces or burst into laughter when they met on the street.” - On the History and Method of Economics
“(The) most striking feature... is the author’s failure to understand the elementary mechanics of the competitive economic organization.” - in Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Vol. 1: ‘What Is Truth’ in Economics?
“The truth seems . . . to be that in the ultimate and essential problem the economic factor is relatively superficial and unimportant.” - Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Volume 2: Laissez Faire: Pro and Con
“Conflicting economic interest is relatively unimportant as a cause of war.” - Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Volume 2: Laissez Faire: Pro and Con
“Economics and ethics naturally come into rather intimate relations with each other since both recognizedly deal with the problem of value.” - The Ethics of Competition
“Goods move in response to price differences from points of low to points of higher price, the movement tending to obliterate the price difference and come to rest.” - The Ethics of Competition
“If all properly economic problems were solved once for all . . . the social struggle and strife would . . . [not necessarily] be reduced in amount or intensity . . . in the absence of some moral revolution which could by no means be assumed to follow in consequence of this change itself.” - Freedom and Reform: Essays in Economics and Social Philosophy
In addition to being an economic expert, Frank Hyneman Knight shared his insights on science and sociology as they relate to economics.
“Sociology is the science of talk, and there is only one law in sociology. Bad talk drives out good.” - quoted in The Samuelson Sampler
“Since economics deals with human beings, the problems of its scientific treatment involves fundamental problems of the relations between man and his world.” - “The Limitations of Scientific method in Economics" in The Ethics of Competition
“From a rational or scientific point of view, all practically real problems are problems in economics. The problem of life is to utilize resources ‘economically,’ to make them go as far as possible in the production of desired results. The general theory of economics is therefore simply the rationale of life. - In so far as it has any rationale!” - “The Limitations of Scientific method in Economics" in The Ethics of Competition
“All science is static in the sense that it describes the unchanging aspects of things.” - The Ethics of Competition
“It is true practically if not altogether without exception that the changes studied by any science tend to equilibrate or neutralize the forces which bring them about, and finally to come to rest.” - The Ethics of Competition
“A civilisation which is dominated by this matter-of-fact insight must prevail against any cultural scheme that lacks this element. This characteristic of western civilisation comes to a head in modern science, and it finds its highest material expression in the technology of the machine industry.” - quoted in The Place of Science in Modern Civilization
Knight also gave practical advice about knowledge, logical thinking and reasoning that anyone can benefit from.
“Knowledge is more a matter of learning than of the exercise of absolute judgment. Learning requires time, and in time the situation dealt with, as well as the learner, undergoes change.” - Risk, Uncertainty and Profit
“Always history is being made; opinions attitudes and institutions change, and there is evolution in the nature of capitalism.” - in Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Vol. 1: ‘What Is Truth’ in Economics?
“In the long run all producers are forced to use the most efficient methods or give place to others who do.” - The Ethics of Competition
“The possibility of saying anything about a thing rests on the assumption that it preserves its identity, or continues to be the same thing in the respect described, that it will behave in future situations as it has in past.” - The Ethics of Competition
“There is no sense in making statements that will not continue to be true after they are made.” - The Ethics of Competition
Ponder words from prominent economists, scientists and entrepreneurs who have shaped our modern world.