My Aeon newsletter this morning contained this provocative article by Paul Sagar about how prophetic this maligned book by Fukuyama was regarding what’s ailing liberal democracy around the world now.
This one is by the great Indian development economist, Debraj Ray. There is a ton of great material in this, so go read it please, posthaste! I can’t resist quoting the penultimate paragraph, with some great tidbits about Arrow’s famous quirks (and genius):
There are many stories about Ken Arrow. Some are semi-apocryphal. Some we can vouch for. For instance, I have seen him nod off during talks (including one that I gave) and then wake up to ask a remarkable question. And he did flip pencils in seminars, and I have seen him on at least one occasion attend a talk with his bicycle helmet on. Once Doug Bernheim and I, convinced that a speaker was wrong, paid no further attention to the seminar and tried to construct a counterexample together. Arrow somehow knew that that was what we were up to, because after the seminar he walked into Doug’s office (where we were still at it), wrote the required example on the board, did a little jig and walked away — complete with bicycle helmet. But one story possibly is apocryphal, and yet fully sums up the Ken Arrow that I was so fortunate to know. Arrow was in class, teaching. He was speaking fast, running as he always did with his thoughts. Students were frantically taking notes as the disembodied sentences emerged. And then, suddenly: “Stop, stop! That’s all wrong!” As the students frantically began to erase their jottings, he continued: “No, no, not what I said, what I was going to say.”
Professor Kenneth Arrow, a titan of economic theory and Nobel laureate for economics, died yesterday at the age of 95. The New York Times published an excellent obituary. Economics Nobel laureate Al Roth published a blog post about this, the comments on which I recommend reading as well. Finally, Kevin Bryan started a monumental series of four posts on his blog, explaining patiently and deeply the contributions Arrow made to economics. Here is the first of these posts.
UPDATE 2017-02-25: Here is a concise and heartfelt tribute by Lawrence Summers, a nephew of Arrow. Two personal reminiscences in this are so compelling that I am taking the liberty of quoting them here:
I remember like yesterday the moment when Kenneth won the Nobel Prize in 1972. Paul Samuelson—another Nobel economist and, as it happens, also my uncle—hosted a party in his honor, to which I, then a sophomore at MIT, was invited. It was a festive if slightly nerdy occasion.
As the night wore on, Paul and Kenneth were standing in a corner discussing various theorems in mathematical economics. People started leaving. Paul’s wife was looking impatient. Kenneth’s wife, my aunt Selma, put her coat on, buttoned it and started pacing at the door. Kenneth raised something known as the maximum principle and the writings of the Russian mathematician Pontryagin. Paul began a story about the great British mathematical economist and philosopher Frank Ramsey. My ride depended on this conversation ending, so I watched alertly without understanding a word.
But I did understand this: There were two people in the room who had won Nobel Prizes. They were the two people who, after everyone else was exhausted and heading home, talked on and on into the evening about the subject they loved. I learned that night about my uncles—about their passion for ideas and about the importance and excitement of what scholars do.
Kenneth knew more about everything than most know about anything, but he never flaunted his intelligence. It was another lesson for me when, many years ago, a paper was published correcting a famous analysis published by one of Kenneth’s teachers. At the time, it created a stir. I asked him what he thought. He said quietly that he had known of the error for decades, but such was his respect for his teacher that he did not publish his insight.
The first link above leads to a nice explanation of the results of the paper, and the second leads to an extended abstract that readers who are adept in econometrics (and other statistics-savvy people) will want to read closely.
It seems to me that the marginal benefit of same-sex marriage legalization includes the saving of many lives. The marginal economic cost is negligible, if it is even positive, compared to such a marginal benefit. Individuals wishing to argue that the moral marginal cost outweighs the marginal benefit will find it very hard to convince me of their case.
UPDATE: I changed “suicides” to “suicide attempts” in the title of this post for higher accuracy.
I am no econometrician and I don’t play one on TV. But I am keenly interested in how economists use econometrics and so when big debates on how it should be taught at university pop up, I am all ears. Apparently, lots of people care as much. Yesterday I tweeted about a blog post by Francis X. Diebold on the topic and my tweet became fay and away the most retweeted and liked of all my tweets. Since you might want to follow up and read that blog post, here is the tweet itself.
Francis Diebold criticizes the “Mostly Harmless Econometrics” authors again. Fascinating to econ wonks. https://t.co/wC9gDaKzfo
— ddiamantaras (@ddiamantaras) February 20, 2017
Philosopher of social science, Daniel Little, has written a blog post that places the political force that put Donald Trump in the White House in the context of right-wing movements in Europe that have, over several decades, pushed forward a populism based on racism, xenophobia, and an anti-democratic attitude towards the “corrupt elites” that pervade the previously mainstream political system. The post is well worth reading and contains many links of interest.
Rajiv Sethi wrote a beautifully clear and succinct account of Thomas Schelling’s contributions to the methodology of economics and to the theory of housing segregation and bargaining. Highly recommended!
Professor Sir Tony Atkinson died today. He was a giant in the field of the economics of inequality of income and wealth. His work will inform a large part of my new course on economic inequality, which starts in 16 days. Economics has been dealt a serious blow by his passing.
In this Project Syndicate post from last Friday, Skidelsky returns to the persistent problem of narrow-minded economists having difficulty grasping the entire picture of the (macro)economy. I agree with his main point, but as always when reading such complaints about economics education, I am left desiring more specifics about how to reform economics education the right way.
On this, my favorite US holiday, I am thankful for many things, in direct proportion to how lucky I have been in my life.
First of all, I am thankful to have Marianne in my life. I am incredibly lucky to have found her, to be together with her in love, and to have been by her side while she beat back insistent health challenges, from which she appears to be free these days (I do not have in my vocabulary a strong enough superlative to modify “thankful” for this last one). She inspires young minds, seeks truth, and brings beauty to the world with her art.
I am also thankful for having had the opportunity for 28-plus years to teach in higher education, which has brought me close to many great colleagues and numerous students who inspire me and remind me daily that the daily grind of preparing classes, administrative tasks, and (yuck) grading, all give meaning to my life in proportion to what I am able to do for my students’ understanding of our crazy-complicated economic universe and for their professional lives.
I am thankful to have so many people I admire consider me a friend, be they singers, teachers, painters, artists, lawyers, or former students.
I am thankful humans have created so much beauty in music and the visual arts. I have found sustenance in music, met wonderful people through my humble musical activities, and recently discovered that, because of photographic technology, I can also be a creator in the visual arts despite being unable to draw even a convincing stick figure.
I am thankful for the millions of people worldwide who recognize the need to act to preserve our planet in a state hospitable for human life, and I am incredibly thankful the planet is still able to sustain homo “sapiens”, despite all the fouling of the nest said homo “sapiens” has done. We are all very lucky in this respect, and must strive to make this luck last.
What are you thankful for?