Friday, March 03, 2006

Poll of the greatest 20th century economists

My colleague, Liam Lenten, pointed out the results of the following poll from the Post-Autistic Economics Review’s, Greatest Twentieth-Century Economists Poll

Subscribers were asked:

Who were the greatest economists of the 20th-Century? “Greatest” here means not who most influenced the economics profession or ideology, but rather who most added to our understanding of economic phenomena. Vote for your top five. The economist who is your first choice will be credited with five votes, your second choice with four, your third with three, your fourth with two and your fifth with one. You may vote for fewer than five if you wish. Only subscribers to the post-autistic economics review are eligible to vote. The votes of subscribers who submit more than one set of votes will not be counted.

1249 subscribers voted.

Given the source, expect a heterodox, anti-neoclassical perspective. Here are the tallies, with a much longer list at the link:

1. John Maynard Keynes 3,253
2. Joseph Alois Schumpeter 1,080
3. John Kenneth Galbraith 904
4. Amartya Sen 708
5. Joan Robinson 607
6. Thorstein Veblen 591
7. Michal Kalecki 481
8. Friedrich Hayek 469
9. Karl Polanyi 456
10. Piero Sraffa 383
11. Joseph Stiglitz 333
12. Kenneth Arrow 320
13. Milton Friedman 319
13. Paul Samuelson 319
15. Paul Sweezy 268
16. Herman Daly 267
17. Herbert Simon 250
18. Ronald Coase 246
19. Gunnar Myrdal 216
20. Alfred Marshall 211.

I have never been much of a fan of these types of ranking. At least Milton Friedman beat Herman Daly. But poor Sir John Hicks. And Piero Sraffa is ranked ahead of Paul Samuelson and Ken Arrow while Vladimir Lenin (an economist?) is ranked ahead of James Tobin and William Baumol. And further down the list, Pierangelo Garegnani, an obscure neo-Ricardian obsessed with commodity own-rates of return, is placed ahead of Franco Modigliani. Only one Australian made the list (the late Colin Simkin) and he got a single vote. The famour trade economist, Ronald Jones and the master of general equilibrium theory and Nobel Laureate, Gerard Debreu, were ranked close to the bottom.

Not my rankings at all but that does not mean much. I would have put Paul Samuelson at number 1 followed probably by Ken Arrow and Sir John Hicks - I would not order these last two. These three economists created modern economics as it is taught and practised today.

Thanks to for the pointer.


Bring Back EP at LP said...

I think the rankings are irrelevant apart from Keynes being number one.
I wouldn't have either Galbraith or Sweezy in my top twenty!

Harry didn't you ever read about the capital controversy?

Rabee said...

I'm surprised that Gerard Debreu got 15 votes. What has Keynes done? I think I came across his name once.

Now Leonid Kantorovich is the least known but the very best economist. His works in economics are simply phenomenal.

<...ducks for cover...wonders if he should have written those few lines... will he get a beating from the Cronulla mob back home?>

hc said...

Homer, I thought the 'capital controversies' were a noise. Joan Robinson made the partially correct claim that neoclassical economists were making steady state equilibrium comparisons to describe dynamic adjustments. I never lost sleep writing K = capital stock and F(K) a production function. I am a sinner.

I don't know much about Kantorovich. He got the Nobel Prize in 1975 with T.C. Koopmans. I think Kantorovich was associated with developing linear programming and generally math programming methods in economics. An early great innovator.

g_a said...

I would have put Sraffa at the first place. The only one in the list capable to change the epistemologic fundamentals of economics

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