Ebenstein, Alan O. 1959–

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Ebenstein, Alan O. 1959–

(Alan Ebenstein, Alan Oliver Ebenstein, Lanny Ebenstein)


Born May 28, 1959, in Princeton, NJ; son of William (an educator and author) and Ruth Ebenstein. Education: University of California, Santa Barbara, B.A, 1982; London School of Economics, Ph.D., 1988.


Home— Santa Barbara, CA. Office— Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001-5403.


Writer, educator, political scientist. Antioch University, Santa Barbara, CA, instructor, 1990-93; former director of research for Arthur N. Rupe Foundation; Cato Institute, Washington, DC, adjunct scholar. Member of Board of Education, Santa Barbara School District, 1990; Republican nominee, California State Assembly, 35th District, Santa Barbara, 1992.


The Greatest Happiness Principle: An Examination of Utilitarianism, Garland (New York, NY), 1991.

(With father, William Ebenstein)Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present,5th edition, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (Fort Worth, TX), 1991, 6th edition, Harcourt College Publishers (Fort Worth, TX), 2000.

(With William Ebenstein)Introduction to Political Thinkers, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Fort Worth, TX), 1992, 2nd ed., 2002.

(With William Ebenstein and Edwin Fogelman)Today's Isms: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, Libertarianism,10th edition, Prentice Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994, 11th edition published as Today's Isms: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, Libertarianism, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2000.

Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2001.

Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.

Milton Friedman: A Biography, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2007.


Economist and political scientist Alan O. Ebenstein has written numerous books on political thinkers and comparisons of political systems. With his 2001 title,Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, he took on the task of explicating the work and thought of the Austrian-born British economic theorist whose work and theories underpinned the conservative revolution in the Britain of Margaret Thatcher. Ebenstein's work was the first English-language biography of the man. Hayek, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1899, was fortunate to be of an aristocratic and learned family. A second cousin to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hayek earned doctorates from the University of Vienna in both law and political science and was much influenced while at university by the economic theories of Ludwig von Mises, who was a proponent of classical liberalism, whereby the markets are supreme. He became a British subject in 1938 after the annexation of his native country to Hitler's Germany. His own economic thought also favored a free-market form of capitalism and he was a staunch critic of socialism and the modern democratic welfare state, a position that put him directly at odds with the thought of economists such as John Maynard Keynes. For many years Hayek taught at the London School of Economics, where Ebenstein earned his doctorate, and then later was a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1974 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

In Friedrich Hayek, Ebenstein presents, according to Booklist contributor David Rouse, "not so much a biography of Hayek as … a history of Hayek's ideas." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that this biography "fills a significant hole in the intellectual history of the 20th century." The same reviewer went on to observe: "Ebenstein has made a significant contribution to understanding an important figure." Writing in the Independent Review, Bruce Caldwell noted that while the book is "not without flaws," the author still "has done a superb job of collecting and putting into usable form what already existed in print about Hayek's life and of filling in most of the remaining holes by his own investigative efforts."

Ebenstein followed up this achievement with a further work on the economist,Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek, which David M. Grant, writing in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, found "excellent," and a "fine intellectual biography." Here Ebenstein attempts to show the complete arc of Hayek's thinking, including what was something a radical turnaround at the end of his career, when he actually advocated consumer price-level stabilization, thereby rejecting some of his own earlier economic assumptions. But, as Ebenstein demonstrates, Hayek was much less interested in consistency than he was in truth. Unlike his early teacher, von Mises, who never deviated from classical liberal models, Hayek was willing to take intellectual leaps. Ebenstein also reinterprets Hayek's classic work The Road to Serfdom, finding that it does not necessarily promote laissez-faire values exclusively. In Ebenstein's estimation, Hayek turns out to be not so much a devotee of classic liberalism; rather he paints him as a libertarian. The author also shows Hayek in context with other contemporary and historical thinkers. "Ebenstein provides thought-provoking insights into Hayek's intellectual relationships with the ideas of other giants, including [David] Hume, [Karl] Popper, [Immanuel] Kant, and Hayek's distant cousin Wittgenstein," Grant noted. The same reviewer concluded: "If you seek a good introduction to this profound, incisive, intellectually curious, and anything-but-doctrinaire scholar and friend of liberty, read Mr. Ebenstein's book."

In his 2007 work,Milton Friedman: A Biography, Ebenstein profiles another famous supply-side economist, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics, and one of the most influential economists of the latter half of the twentieth century. Initially a supporter of centralized control of the economy, Friedman later became an outspoken opponent of Keynesian economics, and his ideas became an integral part of the conservative resurgence in the United States under Ronald Reagan.



American Enterprise, June, 2001, Justin Raimondo, review of Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, p. 55.

American Journal of Economics and Sociology, October, 2004, David M. Grant, review of Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek, p. 943.

Booklist, March 15, 2001, David Rouse, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 1336.

Choice, November, 2001, L.D. Johnston, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 559; March, 2004, R.S. Hewett, review of Hayek's Journey, p. 1341.

Economic Journal, November, 2002, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 581.

Economist, March 31, 2001, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 117.

First Things, August, 2001, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 74.

History of Political Economy, summer, 2003, Susan Howson, review of Friedrich Hayek; fall, 2006, Susan Howson, review of Hayek's Journey.

Independent Review, fall, 2001, Bruce Caldwell, review of Friedrich Hayek.

Journal of Economic Literature, March, 2002, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 230.

Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2001, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 195.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2000, review of Today's Isms: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, Libertarianism, p. 103.

Society, March 1, 2003, Eugene F. Miller, review of Friedrich Hayek, p. 85.


Cato Institute Web site,http://www.cato.org/ (November 5, 2007), "Alan Ebenstein, Adjunct Scholar."

University of California Santa Barbara Web site,http://www.ihc.ucsb.edu/ (November 5, 2007), "Alan Ebenstein."