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John Roger COMMONS

John Roger COMMONS, economist. President, American Economic Association.


  • COMMONS, John Roger was born in 1862 in Hollandsburg, Ohio, United States of America.

  • Education

    • Bachelor of Arts Oberlin College, 1888.


    • Both a theorist and a successful maker of economic policy. His early interest in both the German historical school and marginalism was the inspiration for The Distribution of Wealth. In his later theoretical works he developed an analysis of collective action by the State, and a wide range of other institutions, which he saw as essential to understanding economic life.

      This institutional theory was closely related to his remarkable successes in factfinding and drafting legislation on a wide range of social issues for the State of Wisconsin. The State became a laboratory for progressive innovations whose success later gave Commons a similar role at the federal level. Indeed, his practical work has been remembered more favourably than his theory which reached its fullest form in Institutional Economics.

      He was also a major historian of American labour. Teacher Economics, Universities Wesleyan, Oberlin, Indiana and Syracuse, 1890-1899. Professor, University Wisconsin, 1904.

    Major achievements

    • President, American Economic Association.


    • Distribution of Wealth
    • Clark's major statement of marginal productivity theory provided a discussion of the relation of statics and dynamics superior to previous treatments and for the first time a complete, lucid exposition of the neo-classical theory of distribution.
    • Institutional Economics: Its Place in Political Economy
    • Commons opened Institutional Economics by declaring: "My point of view is based on my participation in collective activities, from which I here derive a theory of the part played by collective action in control of individual action.
    • Economic Geography: An Institutional Approach
    • The market is the central institution of the global economy, driving the development that has so dramatically improved living standards for many of the world's people over the past two centuries.
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    Born 1862
    Died 1945
    (aged 83)