Showing posts with label Profiles of Economists.   Show all posts

Happy 92nd Birthday (June 30) to Thomas Sowell, One of the Greatest Living Economists

From American Enterprise Institute:

“One of my two all-time most favorite economists—Dr. Thomas Sowell— turns 92 tomorrow, he was born on June 30, 1930. Here is Thomas Sowell’s webpage and here is his Wikipedia entry. Milton Friedman (my other all-time favorite economist) once said, “The word ‘genius’ is thrown around so much that it’s becoming meaningless, but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one.”

In my opinion, there is no economist alive today who has done more to eloquently, articulately, and persuasively advance the principles of economic freedom, limited government, individual liberty, and a free society than Thomas Sowell. In terms of both his quantity of work (49 books and several thousand newspaper columns) and the consistently excellent and crystal-clear quality of his writing, I don’t think any living free-market economist even comes close to matching Sowell’s prolific record of writing about economics. And as I’ve mentioned previously on CD, as a writer Thomas Sowell is truly the “Master of Idea Density”—he has the amazing talent of being able to consistently pack more ideas, insight, and wisdom into a single sentence or paragraph than what typically takes an entire essay or book for even the best writer!

Even in his 80s, Thomas Sowell remained active and was writing two syndicated newspaper columns almost every week for the last 25 years until he “retired” from those weekly deadlines at the end of 2016 (see CD post here). On his birthday last year at the age of 90, Thomas Sowell released his 49th book “Charter Schools and Their Enemies” which amazingly was his 11th book since 2010 and his 24th book since the turn of the century! To honor Thomas Sowell’s 92nd birthday tomorrow, I present below 15 of my favorite quotations from Dr. Thomas Sowell and three bonus videos of the great economist:

 1. Knowledge. “The cavemen had the same natural resources at their disposal as we have today, and the difference between their standard of living and ours is a difference between the knowledge they could bring to bear on those resources and the knowledge used today.”

2. Obamacare. “If we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical drugs now, how can we afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical drugs, in addition to a new federal bureaucracy to administer a government-run medical system?”

3. Economics vs. Politics I. “Economics and politics confront the same fundamental problem: What everyone wants adds up to more than there is. Market economies deal with this problem by confronting individuals with the costs of producing what they want and letting those individuals make their own trade-offs when presented with prices that convey those costs. That leads to self-rationing, in the light of each individual’s own circumstances and preferences. Politics deals with the same problem by making promises that cannot be kept, or which can be kept only by creating other problems that cannot be acknowledged when the promises are made.””

Continue reading here.

From American Enterprise Institute:

“One of my two all-time most favorite economists—Dr. Thomas Sowell— turns 92 tomorrow, he was born on June 30, 1930. Here is Thomas Sowell’s webpage and here is his Wikipedia entry. Milton Friedman (my other all-time favorite economist) once said, “The word ‘genius’ is thrown around so much that it’s becoming meaningless, but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one.”

In my opinion,

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Posted by at 11:49 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists

Dale W. Jorgenson: An Intellectual Biography

Profile by John Fernald (INSEAD and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco):

“Dale W. Jorgenson has been a central contributor to a wide range of economic and policy issues over a long and productive career. His research is characterized by a tight integration of economic theory, appropriate data that matches the theory, and sound econometrics. His groundbreaking work on the theory and empirics of investment established the research path for the economics profession. He is a founder of modern growth accounting: Official statistics in many countries, including the United States, implement Jorgenson’s methods. Relatedly, without Jorgenson’s unflagging efforts, consistent industry KLEMS datasets for many countries—which have been widely used in recent decades for growth accounting, econometrics, and other applications—would not exist. Jorgenson is also a pioneer in econometric modeling of producer and consumer behavior and of econometrically estimated, intertemporal general equilibrium modeling for policy analysis.”

Also, see an article in the Wall Street Journal by James R. Hagerty: “Harvard Economist Dale Jorgenson Found Better Ways to Gauge Productivity. Professor, who has died at age 89, removed much of the mystery from studies of what drives economic growth”.

Profile by John Fernald (INSEAD and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco):

“Dale W. Jorgenson has been a central contributor to a wide range of economic and policy issues over a long and productive career. His research is characterized by a tight integration of economic theory, appropriate data that matches the theory, and sound econometrics. His groundbreaking work on the theory and empirics of investment established the research path for the economics profession.

Read the full article…

Posted by at 11:48 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists

Frank Nothaft, economist with “inimitable style,” has died

From Housing Wire:

“Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic and before that, the top economist at Freddie Mac, has died. He was 66.

At CoreLogic, Nothaft headed the office of the economist, providing analysis, commentary and forecasting trends in global real estate, insurance and mortgage markets. Prior to joining CoreLogic in 2015, Nothaft had a nearly 30-year career at Freddie Mac, where he was most recently the chief economist.

“When I arrived at Freddie Mac in 2012 he was a long-established major name in mortgage research,” said Donald Layton, who was CEO of Freddie Mac from 2012 to 2018. “It was always a pleasure to work with him because he was truly a nice individual.”

Before joining Freddie Mac, Nothaft was an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, where he served in the mortgage and consumer finance section and assisted Gov. Henry Wallich.

During his career, Nothaft often was called upon to provide expert commentary on national television and at industry trade conferences, explaining the workings of the housing market for both industry-focused and general audiences.

“Most people knew Frank as one of the nation’s premier housing economists,” said Robin Wachner, a CoreLogic spokesperson. “He was also an outstanding leader and one of those extraordinary people who was loved and admired by everyone who was lucky enough to know him.”

From 2010 to 2015, he was on the faculty at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, where he taught urban real estate economics. He was a past president of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association and served on the board of directors of the Financial Management Association.

Nothaft was well-liked by fellow economists studying the housing market, as well as his colleagues, who described him as straightforward and prizing accuracy. But he was also known for his quirky sense of style.”

From Housing Wire:

“Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic and before that, the top economist at Freddie Mac, has died. He was 66.

At CoreLogic, Nothaft headed the office of the economist, providing analysis, commentary and forecasting trends in global real estate, insurance and mortgage markets. Prior to joining CoreLogic in 2015, Nothaft had a nearly 30-year career at Freddie Mac, where he was most recently the chief economist.

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Posted by at 6:44 AM

Labels: Global Housing Watch, Profiles of Economists

Axel Leijonhufvud: The Road Not Taken

From the Institute for New Economic Thinking (by Arjun Jayadev):

“Axel Leijonhufvud showed economists a promising path forward. They should have taken it. Leijonhufvud passed away on May 5, 2022

C an we theorize the economy as an entity that is growing, evolving, never in equilibrium? An economy passes through periods of intense instability and groping towards an uncertain future as a matter of course? How might one begin?

 “The pretense that we know the future probabilistically as a given set of probability distributions of every damn thing is, I think, a pretty dangerous delusion, but it’s also a comforting one to some people.”

The year was 1967. Young Axel Leijonhufvud sat in front of a pile of papers, full of unfinished notes, half-worked through arguments and intellectual dead-ends that he had been at for nearly four years. Two years into a tenure track position in the economics department at the University of California Los Angeles, he seemed unable to fashion a coherent dissertation from the morass of ideas in the sprawl. This year was his last chance to do so if he wanted to remain in academic employment.

The Swedish émigré had rather immodestly and perhaps unwisely decided that his doctoral work should be on some of the deepest problems of macroeconomics: why was it that the capitalist economy sometimes fails calamitously, and why was it that the Great Depression (still very much in the public memory in the 1960s) had been so very different from ordinary recessions? In trying to understand that defining period of the 1930s he had undertaken a wide range of reading of earlier economists, including a closer reading of the ur-text of the discipline –the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes.”

Continue reading here.

From the Institute for New Economic Thinking (by Arjun Jayadev):

“Axel Leijonhufvud showed economists a promising path forward. They should have taken it. Leijonhufvud passed away on May 5, 2022

C an we theorize the economy as an entity that is growing, evolving, never in equilibrium? An economy passes through periods of intense instability and groping towards an uncertain future as a matter of course? How might one begin?

Read the full article…

Posted by at 7:16 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists

Learning from Lucas

From Thomas J. Sargent:

“This paper recollects meetings with Robert E. Lucas, Jr. over many years. It describes how, through personal interactions and studying his work, Lucas taught me to think about economics.

Introduction

Starting in 1966, Robert E. Lucas, Jr. and other friends generously taught me about macroeconomics. This paper tells how in the early 1970s, together with Neil Wallace, I had hoped to construct, estimate, and optimally control a 1960s-style Keynesian macroeconomic model; how in 1973 Neil and I came to appreciate the way Lucas (1972a) affected our project; and how Chris Sims, Neil, Lars Hansen, and I struggled to respond constructively to Lucas’s insights by building, estimating, and evaluating rational expectations macro models. My story is full of starts and stops and accounts of once-promising dead ends. Let me summarize what might be worthwhile messages.

Recollecting parts of my intellectual journey with Bob starts in Section 2 with the story of our first meeting and my early exposure to the professional milieu around him at Carnegie, and how these interactions opened my bumpy road to rational expectations macroeconomics. In Section 3, I describe how in 1970, nine years after Muth (1961) had defined it, I was still unsure about how to define a rational expectation equilibrium, and how a conversation with Ed Prescott helped set me straight. In Section 4, I describe a large obsolescence shock, triggered by the neutrality paper (Lucas, 1972a), that hit me when I was 30 years old––actually, it was an aggregate obsolescence shock that hit the entire macro community. Section 5 provides a short story about my contribution to the creative process that led to the Lucas (1976) critique. I often encountered conflicts between evidence and theories, i.e., between empirical findings and simple models. Thus, in Section 6, I tell how in 1975, contrary to what I had gathered from talking to Neil Wallace, Lucas endorsed my estimation of an ad hoc demand function for money by saying that if theorizing to build deep foundations did not imply a demand function for money that looked much like Cagan’s, then it should be ignored. Section 7 is a story about how Bob’s idea about two factors underlying US business cycle facts, a nominal and a real one, inspired my paper on index models with Chris Sims, and why Bob didn’t publish his comment on our paper. In Section 8, I describe how Bob inspired me to apply recursive methods in a paper of mine on Tobin’s q in a general equilibrium.

The mid-1970s was the period when the Lucas critique and the theoretical and empirical work it elicited started reshaping econometric practice. After the dust had settled, macroeconometric practice was no longer what it had been before. Section 9 offers a look into this transformation process by showing that the exchange of ideas between adherents of the new approach and monetary policy was often very direct. In Sections 10–12, I describe how initially Bob urged me to pursue work that deployed the method of maximum likelihood to estimate and evaluate rational expectations macro models, how Bob later told me that this approach was rejecting too many good models, and how that led Bob largely to abandon econometrics for more forgiving calibrations in Prescott’s style. It was also thinking about the relationship between calibration and econometrics that led Lars Hansen and me to begin working on bringing concerns about robustness and model misspecification into macroeconomics. A message here is that hearing others and being open to new ideas can send you back to the drawing board and back to school. In Section 13, I tell how, late in our research careers, Bob and I revisited the idea that had originally attracted us to rational expectations––the hunch that it would be fruitful to put the model builder and the econometrician on the same footing, as John F. Muth (1961) had advocated. Section 14 denies that there has ever been a ‘rational expectations school’ that advocates and agreed upon set of policy prescriptions or a unique macroeconomic model. As an additional story, Section 15 illustrates Bob’s careful ways of thinking and writing. Section 16 contains some concluding remarks.

For me, research has always involved socializing and listening to and occasionally having the courage to talk back to larger-than-life personalities, wonderful people including Hyman Minsky, Oliver Williamson, Peter Diamond, Leonard Rapping, Neil Wallace, Chris Sims, Ed Prescott, and many others, who have strong and contending views. This adventure put a charge into learning macroeconomics.

Differences in preferences about how to do scientific economics are mainly about personalities and not about intelligence quotients. Personality differences surface in whether it is better to reason mainly in terms of English words or with mathematical expressions (see the story in Section 9 about Hyman Minsky, my mentor at Berkeley), or the primacy of theory versus econometric evidence (see Sections 10–12 for stories about interactions with Bob Lucas about econometrics and calibration; or the story in Section 15 about whether, without really thinking about it, I was behaving as a Bayesian or a frequentist). When differences in preferences do reflect differences in personalities, some disagreements across very smart researchers cannot be resolved from macro data that are too sparse along the dimensions that would be needed to resolve them.”

From Thomas J. Sargent:

“This paper recollects meetings with Robert E. Lucas, Jr. over many years. It describes how, through personal interactions and studying his work, Lucas taught me to think about economics.

Introduction

Starting in 1966, Robert E. Lucas, Jr. and other friends generously taught me about macroeconomics. This paper tells how in the early 1970s, together with Neil Wallace, I had hoped to construct,

Read the full article…

Posted by at 6:28 PM

Labels: Profiles of Economists

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