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Olson, Mancur (1932–1998)

Mancur Lloyd Olson Jr. left a large footprint in several social sciences, though economics was his base. His application of economic thought to nonmarket phenomena earned him attention and respect in political science and sociology. Olson's intellectual progress began on a North Dakota farm and in a one-room school, and from there to the University of North Dakota, Oxford University, and Harvard University. His teaching and research took place at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Princeton, and finally, after a stint in government, at the University of Maryland where he was Professor of Economics from 1969 to 1998.

Olson was the first to offer a rigorous treatment of the collective action problem, which arises when people have to contribute toward a common cause. His conclusions challenged ...

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