The Passing of a Great Economist

Posted on May 3, 2006 by

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Our book is about applying economics to the study of sports.  In telling our stories, we made mention of a number of economists.  One of the first we mention is John Kenneth Galbraith, who died last Saturday at the age of 97.  On my website I have the picture of three economists who I think have most influenced my work: Alfred Marshall, Herbert Simon, and Galbraith.  Galbraith is primarily known as a critic of neoclassical economics, or what he often referred to as the “conventional wisdom.”  Like Galbraith, our book spends a fair amount of time debunking the “conventional wisdom.”  Unlike Galbraith, we talk about the less important world of sports.  Galbraith lived a more important life, being a major advisor to three Presidents.  Galbraith was also much like Steve Levitt, writing books that brought economics to a general audience. 

For a brief summary of Galbraith’s work, visit the History of Economic Thought website of the New School of Social Research. For a much longer review, there is a biography of Galbraith written by Richard Parker.  You can get more information on Parker’s work at JohnKennethGalbraith.com.  Brad DeLong wrote a review of Parker's work, which you can find here.

In DeLong’s review he notes: “Among economists (excluding economic historians), the 70-year-olds have read Galbraith and think he is very important; the 50-year-olds have read Galbraith and know that the 70-year-olds think he is important but are not sure why; and the 30-year-olds have not even read him.” This is probably mostly true, although I am 36 and I have read Galbraith. And I am not entirely alone in my age group. 

– DJ