Thursday, September 24, 2009

Economic Heroes

David Klein of George Mason, a really hot department that people are talking about a lot these days, has a new article titled "In Defense of Dwelling in Great Minds." It's genesis is from his belief that reverence for particularly great economists has waned over time.

I think a spinoff of the argument is that, even if the majority of economists did have reverence towards deceased economists, they don't and probably can't feel the same way towards contemporaries. Dead economists, yes, people have the grace to honor the deeds and accomplishments of economists who came before them, but live contemporaries, no. I think this can best be supported from Klein himself: in his paper he offers a list of possible economic heroes:


such as Smith, Mill, Marx, Marshall, Veblen, Keynes,
Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Galbraith, and Friedman.

One theme resonates through this list: the fact that all of those included are deceased. Additionally, I feel there is a serious omission from this list: he left out Paul A. Samuelson whose accomplishments would rate as one of the greatest of all time! I suggest that Klein overlooked Samuelson specifically because he is still alive. I don't consider this a major failing, just an interesting observation that could have been overlooked in his analysis.

If I were more cynical, I would argue that economists' pride in their own talent and intelligence precludes them from remonstrating to the mind of another. Those economists would decry their untimely date of birth which precluded them from publishing the same insights that won others acclaim. It goes without saying that this type of reasoning would have to work on a subconscious, or at the very least unspoken, level.
JDW

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