The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think
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He served as an advisor to both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and acted as a consultant to the United States Treasury. But perhaps his greatest impact came by writing Economics: An Introductory Analysis.
This textbook has sold over 4 million copies and become the all-time best selling economics textbook. It is in its 19th printing. Samuelson achieved these numerous accolades by developing the mathematical methodology now considered foundational to all economics. Before Samuelson several revolutionary thinkers had explored detailed modeling techniques in their effort to advance their science. However, Samuelson gave such a systematic treatment of the material that his approach soon became the yardstick by which all other economists measured.
But despite his great technical accomplishments, Samuelson also popularized his ideas.
He brought Keynesianism from esoteric to common sense through his textbook writing and his weekly Newsweek column in which he and Milton Friedman represented opposing views. Because of Samuelson, Neo-Keynesianism became the established academic norm, and continues to exert considerable influence to this day. When most people think of anarchists they think of muscle-bound Rambo-like men with a spear in one hand, an assault rifle in the other, and a massive, freshly slain game animal slung over the warrior's broad shoulders.
How ironic that the most important figure in the anarcho-capitalist movement was really a short, jolly, intellectual? But that is exactly who Murray Rothbard was. Rothbard's thinking stands in total contrast to just about everything that modern economics teaches. He argued that government itself was totally unnecessary, and that the free market could do a better job of providing everything that government provides, whether that be roads, healthcare, security forces, or a public justice system.
To put things mildly, Chicago School thinkers like Milton Friedman look like socialists by comparison. Even his way of writing is drastically different from the majority of economists. Most modern economists make ample use of math-based models in an effort to model physics. Their texts are drenched in complex, statistically sophisticated analysis. But Rothbard proceeds from very basic propositions and builds axiom upon axiom until 1, pages later, a full blown alternative worldview majestically unfolds. His material, being both exhaustive and accessible to the average person, has procured a cult following amongst heterodox thinkers and continues to grow in prominence through the Mises Institute, which he helped found.
He was one of the last polyglots who could readily excel in multiple academic disciplines. He practiced law, taught literature and logic in addition to political economy, and did pioneering work in mathematical statistics. Edgeworth developed several novel arguments in economics that proved to be fruitful for generations. He produced unique mathematical models that mapped both utilitarian and economic principles.
What Economics Models Really Say
He also was the first person to use indifference curves. These ideas advanced modern general equilibrium theory. Contemporary students of microeconomics will also recognize his Edgeworth Box, which represents various distributions of resources. There are some scholars who are known for a famous article they wrote, or a magisterial dissertation that changed the way experts understand their field and has since been read by every graduate student. Then there are finance experts who work in banking and Wall Street and get a big break with the government.
But Jeffery Sachs became one of the leading scholars on economic development, poverty, and globalism by spearheading a long list of important research initiatives. He is well known amongst numerous influential organizations that make the political world go round.
Sachs was a co-recipient of the Blue Planet Prize. His fight for the environment has led Time Magazine to twice list him among the world's most influential leaders. He was the head of the Earth Institute from to , and he became a professor at Columbia University in He is also the Special Advisor to the U. In the past he served as a U.
Secretary advisor on Millennium Development Goals. Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Carl Menger was born and raised in Poland, where he eventually received a law degree from the University of Krakow in His love of economics developed while working for Vienna's Prime Minister.
He eventually published Principles of Economics in He spent three years working as the tutor to the Crown Prince of Austria, and eventually became a professor at the University of Vienna from After that, he retired and spent the rest of his life researching and further building on the arguments he laid down in Principles of Economics , although he never completed another systematic treatment of the material.
Menger used the concept of utility to develop his theory of value and price, it should be noted that utility for Menger meant subjectively held preferences as opposed to pleasure attainment and pain avoidance. Menger also wrote extensively about the distinction and complimentary relationship between consumer, or lower order, and producer, or higher order, goods.
He favored using pure theory over the more empirical and historical case study approach of his German counterparts. His works on monetary theory provided the foundation for what would eventually be called the Austrian School of Economics, and had a particularly profound impact on Ludwig von Mises.
Menger's work provides the cornerstone for much of the 20th century's free market thinking.
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He highly valued institutions that organically developed, as opposed to favoring those which came into existence via top-down central planning, as well as recognized how difficult it is to quantify the sum total of every individual's subjective preferences. For many people economics seems like a dry subject that only those with a love of words surpassed by their love of numbers could ever enjoy.
But some people are drawn to the field not so much because of ability or curiosity, but rather because of conviction. John R. Commons was such a man, the kind of person on a mission. He was raised in a deeply pious home, and consequently spent a great deal of time trying to gel his Christian convictions with his studies in economics. This led him to a progressive perspective and the institutionalist school of thought, where he systemically defended social change that he thought would bring about a better world. Despite being shunned early in life as a radical, he eventually became a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Commons made substantial contributions to our understanding of the history of economics. He was the first historian and theoretician of the American labor movement. His defense of the labor union as an institutional vehicle helped establish him as the leader of Wisconsin Institutionalism. He went on to develop an entire theory of institutional economics, which sought recognition of aggregate bodies like labor unions as protecting and bearing the same sorts of rights traditionally ascribed to individuals under classical economics.
Economics, like all sciences, originally began as a field of philosophy. It then developed into political economy, which was a combination of what we now call political science and economics.
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Today most scholars in either field see their work as intimately related, but still separate. James M. Buchanan, however, was chiefly a contemporary political economist who gelled two fields that by his day had separated. He made numerous important contributions, such as his distinction between politics the rules governing the social game , and policy the strategies employed within the social game. He developed constitutional economics, which saw the rules governing politics as an essential foundation to all economic activity.
He is known for his work on public choice theory, and especially his writings on how politicians' non-overtly economic decisions are still driven by economic concepts of self-interest. He discovered Austrian economics after independently coming to many of the same opinions held by Mises and realizing his affinity for the latter man's book Human Action. Buchanan spent most of his career teaching at George Mason University and won the Nobel Prize in Thomas Sowell is a living testament to the fact that early failures do not bar later success. As a young man Sowell dropped out of high school.
Nevertheless, he joined the United States Marines during the Korean War, and would later receive a magna cum laude bachelor's degree from Harvard, a master's degree from Columbia, and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. He is now one of the most influential libertarian thinkers in America. He is known for advocating supply-side economics and free market capitalism.
Sowell is also a staunch critic of the Federal Reserve, often arguing that since its inception the dollar has suffered systematic inflation and thus the Fed has failed to maintain price stability.
The World in the Model : How Economists Work and Think
He also believes that the Fed has failed to prevent depressions. Sowell's work as an economist, political philosopher, and social theorist has led to his writing of over 30 books. It has also granted him a position as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a leading think tank with international reputation. He is both a popular syndicated columnist and an academic economist with a regular column distributed by Creators Syndicate.
He has won the National Humanities Medal. Some economists have tried to use mathematical models to understand their field, while others have built logical systems precept by precept. Still others see economics as an extension of history. And yet, there is still more room for future economic development.
Ernst Fehr is one of the figures building an entirely new approach to the field, which he calls behavioral economics. His research draws much more heavily from evolutionary anthropology than most other economists.