Ben Stein has had what may be the most diverse career of anyone now on the national scene. He is in every sense a Renaissance Man. He has been an award-winning actor, economist, writer, journalist, and teacher, and is as equally well known in America’s boardrooms as in America’s dormitories and fraternity houses. He is certainly the only man to be a famous, humorous teacher about economics and law.
Stein was born in Washington DC, the son of noted economist and writer Herbert Stein. He attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he studied alongside future luminaries Sly Stallone, Carl Berstein, Goldie Hawn, and Connie Chung. He received a BA with honors from Economics of Columbia, where he was active in the civil rights movement to secure voting and other legal rights for African-Americans. He was valedictorian of his class, by election of his classmates, at Yale Law School class of 1970, where he also worked strenuously, part-time, as a poverty lawyer and as an activist and demonstrator for civil rights and decent treatment of the poor.
After graduation, Stein served as a poverty lawyer in the field of advertising, and as a teacher on the political content of film and TV at American University, UC Santa Cruz, and Pepperdine. He was a speechwriter and lawyer for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and also did legal work for Mr. Nixon in the darkest days of Watergate. He is not, repeat not, Deep Throat.
Stein was a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and also wrote editorials for the publication. In June of 1976, he moved to Hollywood to become a novelist, TV sitcom writer, and movie scriptwriter. He has written and published 17 books, seven fiction and the rest nonfiction. While most of his books are about Hollywood and mass culture, some are self-help and/or surround finance; his How to Ruin Your Financial Life was widely popular. Stein labored especially hard on a decade long project of exposing financial fraud and self dealing at large companies. His work on the Milken/Drexel junk bond scheme was instrumental in the recovery of billions for investors and tax payers.
Stein has also taught about law and economics and securities law at Pepperdine Law School for many years and has served as an expert witness in many securities law cases.
In 1986, with no professional training, Stein became an instant cult hero for his role as the boring economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; his scene was voted “one of the 50 funniest scenes in American film history.” After that, Stein became a recurring character on Charles in Charge, The Wonder Years, and then in 1997 began his long running hit quiz show, Win Ben Stein’s Money. The show won six Emmys and Stein won one for Best Game Show Host. In all, his show has been nominated for 17 Emmys.
Stein’s most recent book is Can America Survive?: The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do About It. He writes regularly for E-Online and The American Spectator, and has been a columnist for New York Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Barrons, and many others.