Fred S. McChesney, a former law professor who taught at Cornell from 1997 to 1999, died on Oct. 12 at age 68 after battling an extended illness.
McChesney was best known for applying economics to the study of law through a field called public choice economics, which is based on the use of economic theories to understand political behavior and decisions.
In his critically-acclaimed book Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion, published in 1997, McChesney argued that members of Congress have often made legislative proposals they do not support, then dropped them for a price — completely legally.
“This is basically extortion by politicians, in that they are paid not to legislate — they get money for nothing,” he said in a 1998 interview with the Cornell Chronicle.
As a professor, his primary educational interests were in the fields of antitrust, corporations, law and economics. He wrote over 100 books, articles and scholarly works that were published by leading academic journals and presses.
McChesney earned his law degree from the University of Miami in 1978 and a doctorate in economics from the University of Virginia in 1982.
He also served as associate director for policy and evaluation at the Federal Trade Commission during the Reagan administration.
In addition to teaching law at Cornell, McChesney taught at Northwestern, Emory and UM. His career spanned 35 years.
At UM, McChesney became the first holder of the de la Cruz-Mentschikoff Endowed Chair in Law and Economics at UM, a position that honors the intersection of law and economics in academia.
“Fred is a world-class scholar,” said Timothy J. Muris, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, at McChesney’s investiture. “He is also a world-class individual.”