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Fastballs, Curveballs and the Market Process — RIP Jerry Ellig

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I wrote my dissertation on the origins of the Soviet Union.  I was fascinated by the country ever since in 1972 Olympics the Soviet basketball team was allowed to win the gold medal from the US team by incompetent referees on the court and corrupt officials off the court.  One of the consequences of this game is that I was transformed overnight from a kid obsessed with everything baseball to a kid obsessed with everything basketball, and a fascination with the Soviet Union.  My love of baseball has stayed with me throughout, and I always enjoyed running into other people who shared this love of baseball.  Thus, in graduate school when I ran into Jerry Ellig, a strange bond was formed from day 1.  Jerry was perhaps the best student in my cohort in terms of being efficient in

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I wrote my dissertation on the origins of the Soviet Union.  I was fascinated by the country ever since in 1972 Olympics the Soviet basketball team was allowed to win the gold medal from the US team by incompetent referees on the court and corrupt officials off the court.  One of the consequences of this game is that I was transformed overnight from a kid obsessed with everything baseball to a kid obsessed with everything basketball, and a fascination with the Soviet Union.  My love of baseball has stayed with me throughout, and I always enjoyed running into other people who shared this love of baseball.  Thus, in graduate school when I ran into Jerry Ellig, a strange bond was formed from day 1.  Jerry was perhaps the best student in my cohort in terms of being efficient in assignments and quick study of whatever material was put before us.  He seemed to be never stressed about course work or qualifying exams.  While the rest of us were in various fits of high anxiety, Jerry would lean back in his chair sometimes reading Lionel Train catalogs and say basically -- I got this. And he always did.

A native of Cincinnati, Jerry grew up with a dominant baseball team.  So while I decided to write my dissertation on the Soviet system, Jerry wrote on the opening up of labor markets the Curt Flood free agency issue.  In particular Jerry examined before it was enacted the abolition of MLB's antitrust exemption, which would eventually signed into just a few year after we finished graduate school.  When Jerry would describe his dissertation to us, he would title it -- "Fastballs, Curveballs and the Market Process" -- the real title was 'Law, Economics and Organized Baseball' and it was defended in 1988.

I heard the sad news today that my old graduate student classmate and baseball jokester and trivial pursuit master had suddenly passed away last night.  I had not seen Jerry since a few months before the pandemic, and we never regularly spoke outside of the times our paths crossed at conferences. But every time I saw Jerry for 30 years, I smiled and had fond memories rush back into my mind of our time trying to learn economics together, debating fine points in theory and methodology, and the role of the economist in society.  For many years we technically overlapped at Mercatus, but Jerry was located in the Arlington campus and focused on the public policy and regulatory analysis, I am in located in Fairfax, don't like the DC culture, and would prefer to discuss foundational issues in economic theory and philosophy of science.  We couldn't be farther apart -- but whenever we ran into each other we always smiled and took the time to catch up on what one another was up to professionally and personally.  He was after all my classmate and one of my first co-authors, we helped each other move residences a few times, and we encouraged each other as we both began our respective careers in the late 1980s.  Me the myopic academic, Jerry the more applied practical minded economist.  Our co-authored paper is titled -- The Business of Government, and Government as a Business -- which is highly critical of the idea of "efficient" government because -- well don't be surprised -- bureaucratic incentives and knowledge problems that political decision makers face.  I haven't re-read that paper in 30 years, if I can find a copy I will do so. But let me say the following, that title was Jerry's -- he was a very good writer, he was a clear presenter, and that followed from being a coherent thinker.  He had a strong voice.  Tonight, what I am thinking is boy I sure wish we could go back to that old seminar room at CSMP in the mid 1980s and along with Dave Prychitko and Steve Horwitz attempt to gang up on Jerry and persuade him that he was thinking about this or that issue wrongly, only for him to smile back at us, completely unfazed by our onslaught on this or that, and completely convinced that while we were harmless radical eggheads we were a bit crazy. Then we could discuss baseball, and perhaps enjoy some beer together and on the best days pizza as well.

I will miss his smile, his jokes, and the clarity of his voice in the debates on the overregulation of the US economy.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and close friends.  

 Veronique de Rugy has a short announcement of Jerry's death at NRO, and Don Boudreaux as well at Cafe Hayek.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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