Who's the Greatest of Them All?
By Alice Temnick
One word sums up this episode and topic: Wow! Explore the GOATs of economics as judged by Tyler Cowen in his zero-cost downloadable book embedded in a ChatGPT-4 option for user-friendly queries. Russ Roberts encourages us to read it in its entirety and we hope that his excellent interview with Tyler sharing highlights of this first-of-its-kind digital book entices you to do so. The links in the transcript connect to a curated list of each prominent thinker’s winning written contribution. We promise that Tyler’s choice for the single GOAT Economist won’t be revealed. You can discover it for yourself in the final chapter. Enjoy Tyler’s fandom as he walks us through what he describes as the case studies of the most talented thinkers in the history of economics.
Have a listen and explore this extraordinary book. Once you do, we hope you’ll take a moment and share your thoughts with us. As Russ says, we love to hear from you1
Of the six finalists and five semifinalists, Russ begins by questioning Paul Samuelson’s low ranking. Many listeners of a certain age group will likely remember the heavy brown Samuelson textbook from their college Micro and Macro courses. Tyler himself credits Samuelson with the two best articles ever written. What critique(s) of Samuelson does Tyler make to support his judgment?
Tyler names Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” as the single best economics article. He repeatedly points out the change in the field of economics away from ideas about how the real world works. In a refresher skimming of Hayek’s great piece, (or a first time experience!), what specific phrases, illustrations or literary aspects of this renowned article strike you as tools for clearly conveying an idea?
What does Tyler believe we get wrong about Thomas Malthus and the term “Malthusian” as a descriptor of his beliefs?
Tyler describes John Maynard Keynes and others as tirelessly dedicated to improving the world around them and how the quality of their writing bring their personalities to life. It is the breadth and depth of Keynes (and John Stuart Mill’s) writings that both Russ and Tyler agree is scarce among today’s great thinkers. Why is that? What did you find most interesting about Tyler’s assessment of Keynes?
On what topics of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations do Russ and Tyler assert are too often overlooked yet critically important to the beginning of modern economic thought? These two Smith scholars differ greatly on Smith’s significance. Whose side are you on, and why?