History of Economics Playground

The use of economists' biography, I.


http://www.adeptis.ru/vinci/e_part2.html“Interest in personalities had already gone further than is healthy in the literature of economics, and further still in the culture at large. I do not suppose that anyone would be crass enough to say or believe that the personal characteristics of an author have any bearing on the truth or falsity or value of her or his written work. I would not deny that the personality traits of an author have quite a lot to do with the differential success and diffusion of ideas within the profession, and even more so outside the profession. But that is something to be deplored; and even if it is inevitable, it should certainly not be encouraged.”


(Robert Solow, "Notes on Coping." In Szenberg ed. Eminent Economists: their Life Philosophy,  1992, p270)



So the question is what kind of person Solow was in order to hold to this image of truth.


Not sure I agree with that, but I like Till's comment ;)

I mean, particularly in a social science where your priors and assumptions may shape the theory and indeed the outcome in rather significant ways; and where interpretation is important.  Does it matter that Malthus was a priest when he advocated abstinence as a 'natural' way to control population growth, or that eugenics formed the backbone of some early social theory. Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure helps us understand what was being argued and why. Regardless of their precise logic...


You may want to look at my forthcoming book, Reinterpreting the Keynesian Revolution, for an examination of how personality, along with other factors, played an important part in promoting Keynes's success.


Till, you made my day. 

All, I don't post this quote from Solow because I agree with it. I post it because I think it reflects what economists on average think of the relevance of biographical info to understand their science, and this is where to begin. 

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