Sunday, March 27, 2011

Those who Bask, and Those who Grow

There are two kinds of economists. On the one hand, there are those economists who discover something great and spend the whole of their professional careers repeating this important discovery; and on the other hand there are those who explore different areas after exhausting the implications of a certain field. With some justification we can refer to the former as hedgehogs and the latter as foxes. Now being a fox does not make one a "better" economist; it just makes one a different kind of economist. One can, after all, discover something "great" and have a very productive career reiterating this fundamental principle.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some economists that come to mind:

1. Those who Bask

- Paul Davidson, for his discovery of Keynes's liquidity preference and the essential properties of money;
- Israel Kirzner, for his discovery of the theory of entrepreneurship in market processes;
- Oliver Williamson, for his efforts in "operationalizing" the theory of transaction costs;
- Hyman Minsky, for his discovery of the "financial instability hypothesis;"
- G. L. S. Shackle - for his discovery of the importance of uncertainty in human decision-making.

2. Those who Grow

- F. A. Hayek, technical economic theory to psychology to political philosophy to monetary economics;
- Ludwig Lachmann, capital theory to human expectations to hermeneutics;
- Douglass North, instititutional structures to economic growth to the role of ideology;
- Frank Knight, for his many contributions to the social sciences, human behavior, and technical economic theory;
- Nicholas Kaldor, Hayek scholar to Keynes scholar to income distribution to economic growth.

What other economists come to mind, and where would you put them?

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