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December 13, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Economist Paul Samuelson - a major proponent of Keynesianism in the United States and the second Nobel Laureate in Economics - has died.

Samuelson's Foundations of Economic Analysis was among the first to use index numbers. The Samuelson-Mishi condition finds the most efficient provision of public goods vis a vis private ones. Among Kennedy's chief economic advisors, Samuelson is frequently recognized for encouraging Kennedy to pursue tax cuts early in his term to stimulate the economy. Samuelson was famous for saying: “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws — or crafts its advanced treatises — if I can write its economics textbooks.” His, Economics, has sold roughly 50,000 copies a year in recent years.

Reactions from Paul Krugman, Ricardo Caballero, Lawrence Summers (Samuelson's nephew), Ben Bernanke, Robert Lucas, George Akerlof, and others.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:48 PM on December 13, 2009

posted by mullacc at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2009


I took Samuelson's course at MIT about 100 years ago. It was taught by TA's rather than by the man himself, unfortunately, so no direct contact. But the principles have stuck with me and been useful practically on a daily basis.
posted by beagle at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2009

This is a huge loss.

posted by bearwife at 2:07 PM on December 13, 2009


Maybe we can offset it by the premature ends of a few dozen Friedman-era free marketeers.
Make it a cap and trade kind of thing.
posted by clarknova at 3:07 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know he may appear dead, but perhaps they have not tried a sufficiently large stimulus.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

posted by SouthCNorthNY at 3:36 PM on December 13, 2009

I rate seeing his 1955 diagram version of the public goods optimality story (JSTOR link, pdf) as the day the light went on about economics for me.
posted by hawthorne at 3:52 PM on December 13, 2009

Everyone who has ever attended college weeps, perhaps. Anyway, he was like a rite of passage. RIP Mr. Samuelson.
posted by caddis at 4:36 PM on December 13, 2009

So Keynes was right! In the long run we are all dead...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:43 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A great man.

Samuelson from his 1993 paper "Altruism as a Problem Involving Group versus Individual Selection in Economics and Biology":

Mesmerized by Homo economicus, who acts solely on egoism, economists shy away from altruism almost comically. Caught in a shameful act of heroism, they aver: "Shucks, it was only enlightened self interest." Sometimes it is. At other times it may be only rationalization (spurious for card-carrying atheists): "If I rescue somebody's son, someone will rescue mine."

I will not waste ink on face-saving tautologies. When the governess of infants caught in a burning building reenters it unobserved in a hopeless mission of rescue, casuists may argue; "She did it only to get the good feeling of doing it. Because other-wise she wouldn't have done it." Such argumentation (in Wolfgang Pauli's scathing phrase) is not even wrong. It is just boring, irrelevant, and in the technical sense of old-fashioned logical positivism "meaning-less." You do not understand the logic and history of consumer demand theory — Pareto, W. E. Johnson, Slutsky, Allen-Hicks, Hotelling, Samuelson, Houthakker,... — if you think that is its content.

posted by smoke at 4:54 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by jonp72 at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2009


My favourite paper of his: "Why we should not make mean log of wealth big though years to act are long" (ungated). He hilariously makes his point using only one syllable words. He will be missed.
posted by rider at 2:22 AM on December 14, 2009

I sold plasma in college to get the money to buy the Samuelson textbook for Econ 101. Professor never gave us one assignment in the book. I resold it, losing nearly all its value in the transaction.

Anyway, here's my .; a costly . at that.
posted by tizzie at 11:03 AM on December 14, 2009

posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:53 PM on December 14, 2009

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