Monday, January 5, 2015

Samuelson as a historian of economic thought

Steven Medema, together with Anthony Waterman, has published a series of papers by the late Paul Samuelson on the history of economic thought. Note that the scale and the range is more impressive than I expected. As they say in the intro:
"Paul Samuelson once referred, self-disparagingly, to 'the 5 per cent of my published papers that deal with the history of economic science' (54, 3). But D.P. O’Brien (2007, 336) regards this as a 'significant underestimate.' Nearly 140 articles, essays, or memoirs listed at the end of this volume, appearing over a period of forty-four years from 1946 to 2009 and comprising perhaps 20 percent of his scholarly publications, are clearly identifiable as studies of the history of economic thought."
I only know a bit of his writings on the Keynesian Revolution, and on Marx, who he famously, and incorrectly in my view, labeled as a "minor post-Ricardian." Now I learn that Samuelson thought also that Ricardo, in his estimation, was "the most overrated of economists."

I suppose that his views on Ricardo help understand his reservations about Marx. Also, and so far I have read the introduction (so I am relying on the editors), he seems to side with Malthus in his debate with Ricardo. Again, that makes sense. At any rate, worth reading and more to follow.

PS: It occurs to me that Samuelson's interest in Sraffa (he wrote an entry for the 1987 edition of the Palgrave, and according to Eatwell, wanted to write the main entry), who is cited profusely in the volume, the ultimate interpreter of Ricardo (and for me of Marx too), is no coincidence. 

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