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10 Worst Economists of All-Time

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zefreak replied on Tue, Mar 9 2010 5:29 AM

It is quite absurd to call behavioral economics 'statist'. Would you consider psychology and decision theory statist?

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Just to add to the mix Leon Walras must be there for he pretty much founded general equilibrium theory. Add to this Irving Fisher for founding the Chicago school and possibly Friedman for cementing the positivist methodology to economics.

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Friedman gets my vote for his invention of payroll tax witholding.  Tax witholding and inflation is the core of our present rotten political system.

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Milton Friedman as one of the 10 worst economists of all time? You guys are crazy. 

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"

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Conza88 replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 7:46 AM

Bert:
Conza88:
David K.:
Conza, I think Bert was alluding to the following famous Rothbard quote
I know the quote well & believe the other one I mentioned from Mises, is the exact one he was referring too.
Those are the two I was referring too, I remember them now from The Quotable Mises.
Thanks for clearing that up. My assumption was right, but it appears - now reading the extended context of those quotes --I had (don't know about you) assumed from that Mises quote, he had a similar disposition as that of Rothbard. So thanks to DK & SD for prompting me to digg further and clear that up.

Why Read Adam Smith Today? - Mises

However, a warning must be given. Nobody should believe that he will find in Smith's Wealth of Nations information about present-day economics or about present-day problems of economic policy. Reading Smith is no more a substitute for studying economics than reading Euclid is a substitute for the study of mathematics. It is at best an historical introduction into the study of modern ideas and policies. Neither will the reader find in the Wealth of Nations a refutation of the teachings of Marx, Veblen, Keynes, and their followers. It is one of the tricks of the socialists to make people believe that there are no other writings recommending economic freedom than those of 18th-century authors and that in their, of course unsuccessful, attempts to refute Smith they have done all that is needed to prove the correctness of their own point of view. Socialist professors?not only in the countries behind the Iron Curtain?withheld from their students any knowledge about the existence of contemporary economists who deal with the problems concerned in an unbiased scientific way and who have devastatingly exploded the spurious schemes of all brands of socialism and interventionism. If they are blamed for their partiality, they protest their innocence. "Did we not read in class some chapters of Adam Smith?" they retort. In their pedagogy the reading of Smith serves as a blind for ignoring all sound contemporary economics.

Read the great book of Smith. But don't think that this may save you the trouble of seriously studying modern economics books. Smith sapped the prestige of 18th-century government controls. He does not say anything about the controls of 1952 or the Communist challenge.


I however still hold the other position, i.e there are far better things to read than Smith. The "harsher" quote, still undoubtedly applies.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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Physiocrat replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 12:02 PM

hayekianxyz:

Milton Friedman as one of the 10 worst economists of all time? You guys are crazy. 

It would be nice to read an argument. Apart from his methodology he really isn't that bad but his methdology is so pernicious it merits a mention.

Any way xyz, who'd you put in the list ?

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von Vodka replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 3:23 PM

I think Milton Friedman was an excellent economist considering his methodology. That is, the worse one's methodology, the least likely he is to reach correct conclusions. Friedman reached many laissez- faire conclusions (except, off course, on money) which makes him perhaps the greatest positivist economist, in my mind.(Granted, picking the right methodology has to do with being a good economist.)

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Esuric replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 3:54 PM

Physiocrat:
Add to this Irving Fisher for founding the Chicago school and possibly Friedman for cementing the positivist methodology to economics.

Irving Fisher was a good economist. His monetary theory was overly simplistic, and didn't incorporate Mises' insights, but his capital theory is very impressive.

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion."

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The whole premise of this thread is ridiculous. Not being a libertarian is not a sufficient condition for being a "bad economist". Yes, Menger and Hayek were damn good economists, but the large majority of good economists are not libertarians. Get over it.

"I cannot prove, but am prepared to affirm, that if you take care of clarity in reasoning, most good causes will take care of themselves, while some bad ones are taken care of as a matter of course." -Anthony de Jasay

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Esuric replied on Fri, Mar 12 2010 3:33 AM

Solid_Choke:
The whole premise of this thread is ridiculous. Not being a libertarian is not a sufficient condition for being a "bad economist". Yes, Menger and Hayek were damn good economists, but the large majority of good economists are not libertarians. Get over it.

Veblen was a terrible economist, sorry. And you're right, there are many very good non-libertarian economists.

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion."

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Gipper replied on Mon, Mar 29 2010 1:14 PM

Krugman has to be up there, he's an idiot. When I read his column I cant believe he believes his own crap.

 

 

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Merlin replied on Mon, Mar 29 2010 3:11 PM

Gipper:

Krugman has to be up there, he's an idiot. When I read his column I cant believe he believes his own crap.

 

 

You would if you had  a fraction of his paycheck

 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Torsten replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:11 PM

 

Solid_Choke:

Thorstein Veblen was a damn good economist. We need more evolutionary theory in economics, not less.

Human nature and laws of human action do in fact exist. Furthermore, the idea of replacing entrepreneurs with engineers is absolutely ridiculous.


Well, I liked some of his writings and social analysis, but I didn't see him suggesting some valid remedy for the problems and issues raised. In fact, his own analysis of class behavior should have told him a thing or two. 

 

That said, I'd good policy advice and economic commentary can do with more historical and institutional analysis. Just skipping that by calling it subjective, statist or anything like that may knock down some people in rhetorically , but doesn't really help to come closer some sound results to explain what is happening and what ought to be done. 

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Anenome replied on Wed, Jun 20 2012 12:51 AM

In terms of negative impact, I'd put Marx as history's worst economist, if you can even call him an economist at all.

Second to him, again in terms of negative impact, Keynes, easily.

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How many of these economists have you actually read?

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Anenome replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 2:11 PM

I want to add one more economist that had a particularly negative impact: Godwin, the guy who originall came up with the idea that private property was responsible for the world's ills. What a foolish idea that was and led to everything else.

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Rcder replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 5:40 PM

How many of these economists have you actually read?

Although Esuric certainly doesn't need my help here, considering how well-versed he is in economics and the fact that he's been formally trained in the subject on a college level it's a safe assumption that he's been exposed to all of them.  Moreover, none of these economists are terribly esoteric (I admit to being ignorant of John Law among a few others; I know what the real bills doctrine is but I was unaware that he was its proginator) and most anyone on these boards could tell you something about each of them, I think. 

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Rcder replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 5:42 PM

Just to add to the mix Leon Walras must be there for he pretty much founded general equilibrium theory. Add to this Irving Fisher for founding the Chicago school and possibly Friedman for cementing the positivist methodology to economics.

At the risk of looking like a fool, wasn't Mises's evenly rotating economy a sort of general equilibrium approach to economics? 

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The other day I was looking for my toothbrush, somehow I had managed to lose it, I had been drunk the last time I brushed my teeth so I couldn't remember where I put it. I looked at the entire shelf and still couldn't find it, as I was becoming frustrated by the missing toothbrush I bumped the shelf which caused the shaving cream to move very slightly. Seeing the end of something peeking out from behind the shaving cream, I moved the shaving cream aside and there was my tooth brush. Total time spent looking for tooth brush: 10 minutes. I proceeded to face palm and wonder how I could have wasted so much time without thinking of moving the shaving cream and seeing if it was behind that. By the time I finally finished brushing my teeth I was fine again, it might seem stupid not to think of moving something around when looking for something, but that is because of hindsight bias. Moral of the story is that it's easy to look back and say "How could I / they have been so stupid?", not thinking of something doesn't make you stupid, you simply weren't thinking about it.

That's why I have a problem with criteria 2 and 3. It's easy to say that the flat-earthers were stupid, thing was they didn't know of anything else for a very long time. Also it's easy to call Gesell's reasoning ability childish, compare him to the other economists of his day and he might not seem so stupid, after all he didn't know what we know today and it might be tempting to dismiss him as stupid for not thinking of the objections raised against him today, until the day when you have one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" moments. How would you all feel if someone called Mises stupid for not seeing the inconsistency of classical liberalism compared to anarcho-capitalism, when they conveniently leave out the small fact that at the time there was no anarcho-capitalism?

So before calling anyone's reasoning ability childish, or accusing someone of being intellectually dishonest, think about their circumstances. Maybe at the time they were brilliant compared to everyone else, maybe no one ever pointed out the inconsistencies of their philosophy, maybe they never thought of X, Y, Z.

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Rcder replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 7:17 PM

Serpentis-Lucis,

It's certainly childish to "strike the shoulders of the giants upon which we stand", but the fact of the matter is that with many of these economists their contemporaries (and in some cases their ancestors) were far ahead of them theoretically.  Thomas Malthus's underconsumptionism was refuted by Jean-Baptiste Say, Lord Keynes's theories were attacked by F.A. Hayek and Lionel Robbins at LSE, Adam Smith's works were a step back from predecessors like A.R.J. Turgot and Richard Cantillon, etc.  The fact that Keynesianism is largely a scion of mercantilism should put to bed any notion that The General Theory was an honest though bumbling attempt at pushing the intellectual boundaries of economics farther than the area his teachers had circumscribed, and the same goes for most of these other intellectuals; they clung to ideas which are not only viewed with scorn now, but were also disputed back when they were first formulated.

In regards to Mises, his radical application of the principle of self-determination as illustrated in his book Liberalism is de facto anarcho-capitalism, a point that has been brought up on these boards in previous discussions.    

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Esuric replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 10:41 PM

Not going to defend a list I made in 2010. Just so it's clear. 

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion."

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Jargon replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 10:57 PM

Would you say which names you might remove from the pooplist?

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Esuric replied on Sat, Jun 23 2012 11:30 PM

 Would you say which names you might remove from the pooplist?

Honestly, I haven't thought about this at all since I wrote this post 2 years ago. I don't even remember most of the reasoning behind the picks. I would have to open up textbooks and look at my notes to really defend them. I would probably take Paul Samuelson off the list though after reading "A Summing Up."

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jun 24 2012 3:49 PM

Didn't Marx explain to us how the capitalist mode of production works ;) 
Anyway Marx is more of an economic sociologist. It's his materialist reductionist premises that are flawed, hence he can not have a sound value theory that lead to the other flaws. 

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Alexander Hamilton didn't make the list.

I'd also add M Friedman because he caused too much damage.

Finally, Art Laffer should make the list for his focus on utility rather than ethics.  He was logical, but he's done a lot of damage.

I just consider the latter two to be right wing Keynesians who fool the uneducated into thinking that what they advocate is free market.  Hamilton didn't try to fool anyone, but he was a Cromwellian mercantilist to the extreme.

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Oh, I didn't realize how old this thread was.

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Great, but Malthus was simply wrong. His logic may have been sound, on this issue, but his fundamental premise was incorrect: human beings are not like rats who continuously and mindlessly multiply. Either way, as I've already mentioned, even if we exclude the Malthusian trap, he is still responsible for all underconsumption/overproduction arguments (that the acquisition of too much wealth can cause depressed business activity), and for the so-called "paradox of thrift."

Have you read anything other than his Essay on Population?  His Politcal Economy Treatise is very simliar to Ricardo.

He doesn't say anything like what the modern Malthusians say.  In fact, all "Maluthusianism" is, is the fact that the market will limit the level of population to the amount of food produced.  He uses the word subsistence to describe the level of food consumption when population has grown to swamp production.  We have not reached the capacity yet, and it likely is a far off capacity.  Logically, his argument is true.

Malthusianism is simply an observation.  Modern Malthusianism is a polemic and a scare tactic.

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