John R. Commons - Quotes


  • "...An institution is defined as collective action in control, liberation and expansion of individual action." —"Institutional Economics" American Economic Review, vol. 21 (December 1931), pp. 648–657.
  • "...But the smallest unit of the institutional economists is a unit of activity — a transaction, with its participants. Transactions intervene between the labor of the classic economists and the pleasures of the hedonic economists, simply because it is society that controls access to the forces of nature, and transactions are, not the "exchange of commodities," but the alienation and acquisition, between individuals, of the rights of property and liberty created by society, which must therefore be negotiated between the parties concerned before labor can produce, or consumers can consume, or commodities be physically exchanged..." —"Institutional Economics" American Economic Review, vol. 21 (December 1931), pp. 648–657.
  • "The Chinese and Japanese are perhaps the most industrious of all races, while the Chinese are the most docile. The Japanese excel in imitativeness, but are not as reliable as the Chinese. Neither race, so far as their immigrant representatives are concerned, possesses the originality and ingenuity which characterize the competent American and British mechanic." —Races and Immigrants in America, pg. 131.
  • "Other races of immigrants, by contact with our institutions, have been civilized—the negro has only been domesticated." —Races and Immigrants in America, pg. 41.
  • "In the entire circuit of the globe those races which have developed under a tropical sun are found to be indolent and fickle. From the standpoint of survival of the fittest, such vices are virtues, for severe and continuous exertion under tropical conditions bring prostration and predisposition to disease. Therefore, if such races are to adopt that industrious life which is a second nature to races of the temperate zones, it is only through some form of compulsion. The negro could not possibly have found a place in American industry had he come as a free man..." —Races and Immigrants in America, pg. 136.

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