Paul Samuelson advice for economists: study economic history

Conor Clarke Of Atlantic conducts superb interview of Paul Samuelson, one of the greatest economists of all time. It is two parts.  Part one is here and Part two is here. He discusses about great depression, economic policies then, the current crisis, his secret of being youthful (he is 94 and to remember and answer so many qs is quite remarkable)

The final question was another confirmation to the importance of eco history:

Very last thing. What would you say to someone starting graduate study in economics? Where do you think the big developments in modern macro are going to be, or in the micro foundations of modern macro? Where does it go from here and how does the current crisis change it?

Well, I’d say, and this is probably a change from what I would have said when I was younger: Have a very healthy respect for the study of economic history, because that’s the raw material out of which any of your conjectures or testings will come. And I think the recent period has illustrated that. The governor of the Bank of England seems to have forgotten or not known that there was no bank insurance in England, so when Northern Rock got a run, he was surprised. Well, he shouldn’t have been.

But history doesn’t tell its own story. You’ve got to bring to it all the statistical testings that are possible. And we have a lot more information now than we used to.

So, Samuelson says what host of others have been saying- learn eco history and remember it.  I hope our econ departments are listening and acting. Unfortunately, behavioral economics also tells you people have really short memories. Let’s hope things change.

3 Responses to “Paul Samuelson advice for economists: study economic history”

  1. Paul Samuelson advice for economists: study economic istory « Says:

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  2. can i further degree in accountancy if i dont do maths in my a levels subject? | Says:

    […] Paul Samuelson advice for economists: study economic istory … […]

  3. Arrow explains healthcare insurance and information asymmetry « Mostly Economics Says:

    […] Conor Clarke of Atlantic is doing us a big favor by interviewing all time great economists. He interviewed Paul Samuelson a while ago and the latest one is Kenneth Arrow (the third part is yet to […]

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