Monday, May 23, 2011

You can-NOT be SERIOUS!!!

Greg Mankiw links to this very interesting paper by William Davis, Bob Figgins, David Hedengren, and Daniel Klein in Econ Journal Watch. It's a poll taken of economists, asking who their favourite economists are. Presumably 'me' (in the general form, not 'Me, Bob Smith') was not an available option, otherwise I suspect that this would be the dominant winner in nearly every living case.

The first question I have is on Page 7 of the pdf - Favourite Pre-20th Century Economists.

#5 is Karl Marx.

Karl @#$%ing Marx!!! Ahead of Walras! Ahead of Pareto! Ahead of Cournot!

Good God, which 'economists' were they interviewing? East Podunk State School of Sociology?

I suppose the likely explanation (consistent with evidence elsewhere) is this isn't a measure of 'who do you think were the best economists', merely your favourite ones. This would also explain other trends that would be strange in terms of actual contribution to economics - putting Galbraith (who mainly wrote popular works) ahead of giants like Irving Fisher, von Mises, Hicks, Stigler, Veblen, and Tobin.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, this isn't just a diss on left-leaning economists. Thomas Sowell was a surprising inclusion in the living economists age 60 or over. Now, I yield to nobody in my love of Sowell's brilliantly lucid and enjoyable explanations of basic economic principles, but like Galbraith he is mainly known for popular writing. I'd struggle to rate him ahead of Martin Feldstein or Robert Fogel.

I guess this is partly the mind projection fallacy at work.

But even so! Karl @#$%ing Marx? How do you even rate him as a serious economist, let alone your favourite one?

It's a sick world alright.

The main saving grace was that Gary Becker was the favourite living economist age 60 or older. A well-deserved honour!

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