Crossposted from the Playground
Diane Coyle has a list of twelve economists who she argues “clearly shaped the character of economics in a meaningful and lasting way – going up to the early 1980s.” As such, they would form the basis of the 12 chapters of the follow up to Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers. Below is the, with link to some autobiographical reflexions by those economists, and pieces where historians examine their wordviews. In some cases, dozens of references could be mentioned, so I restricted myself to the one or two first references that came to my mind (aka, written by those researchers I closely work with. Aka, a small sample of what historians of economics produce). Other candidates haven’t been investigated so far, so if there’s any master student thinking of a history of economics PhD reading this, this is something to think about.
▪ John Nash : by Sylvie Nasar, obviously.
▪ Paul Samuelson : by himself, in Szenberg’s Eminent Economists. Two “Samuelson Begins” papers by Roger Backhouse, the first on why Samuelson left Harvard for MIT, and the second on how Foundations (really) came to be.
▪ Milton Friedman : by himself (and Rose). I’m still recoving from the overdose I experienced will working on the lucky consistency of Friedman’ science and politics a few years ago, so not much to propose. My last reading of the subject was Angus Burgin’s invention of Milton Friedman.
▪ Gary Becker : (same as Coase. Passed away recently, hence many reflections on his worldview) an obituary by Jean-Baptiste Fleury. Becker begins, by Pedro Texeira. And even Becker by Michel Foucault via Kieran Healy.
▪ Fischer Black : Perry Mehrling’s book, what else?
▪ Paul Romer : his own exposition of his research program. David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, an epic saga of how economists have conceived growth since Adam Smith, comprises a story of “Romer 1990.” See also Warsh’s blog post on endogenous growth theory.
▪ Joseph Stiglitz : only his long Nobel bio …
▪ James Heckman : again, no reference except a short Nobel bio.
Coyle allows one suggested addition to her list. Mine would definitely be Peter Diamond. His work radically transformed at least two fields : labor economics (search theory) and public economics (optimal taxation). He embodied a new kind of economists, the “applied theorist,” as he called himself. And Because any addition comes with a subtraction, I would drop Nash, whose contribution to game theory was immensely influential, but very focused. Other candidates in Coyle’s list had a vision of how economics should be done, if not a philosophical one. Not Nash.