Aaron Director was born September 21, 1901 in Charterisk, Russia, in what is now the Ukraine. He immigrated with his family to Portland, Oregon in 1913. He attended Yale University, graduating with a degree in economics in 1924 after only three years. Director later attended the University of Chicago, earning a graduate degree in economics and teaching introductory courses in the Department of Economics. In 1946, he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School, where he began applying principles of economics to the study of law. Through collaborations with his brother-in-law Milton Friedman, Henry Simons, and George Stigler, Director asserted a tremendous influence on a broad range of legal scholarship. With this work, he became closely associated with the Chicago School of Economics, a free-market methodology at the basis of the World Bank’s policies in the 1980s and 1990s. Among Director’s students were federal judges Richard Posner, Robert Bork, and Frank Easterbrook.
Throughout his career, Director maintained a strong collaborative impulse in his writing and teaching. He famously co-taught a course with future law school dean and Attorney General Edward H. Levi in the 1950s. In the course, Director would use economic data and methods to challenge Levi’s legally-reasoned conclusions. Though his publication list is short, Director’s influence can be seen in the writings of many Chicago economists and legal scholars. Said George Stigler, "Most of Aaron’s articles have been published under the names of his colleagues."
With Ronald Coase, Director founded the Journal of Law and Economics in 1958. In 1962, he helped to found the Committee on a Free Society. Perhaps Director’s greatest legacy is his thorough consideration of antitrust policy, advocating a laissez-faire system in which market forces, rather than governmental regulations, guide economic competition.
After retiring from the Law School in 1965, Director relocated to California and took a position at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He died September 11, 2004, at his home in Los Altos Hills, California.
Also represented in these papers is Director’s colleague George J. Stigler (1911-1991). Stigler, the 1982 Nobel Laureate in Economics, worked out his theories of public regulation in large part through conversations and debates with Director in the 1960s. After Stigler’s death, Director and Milton Friedman presented monetary gifts in excess of one million dollars to the University of Chicago Economics Department in Stigler’s honor. These gifts led to the establishment of the George J. Stigler Professorship in Economics at the University.
From the guide to the Director, Aaron. Papers, 1918-2001, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)