You Gotta Know These Economists

  1. Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish philosopher and economist. Though he wrote on nearly every subject of moral and social philosophy, he is basically remembered as the author of An Inquiry into the nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) and as the creator of the metaphor of the "invisible hand." This work more-or-less single-handedly founded the Classical school of economics.

  2. Milton Friedman (1912- ) American economist. Conservative thinker famous for his advocacy of monetarism (an revision of the quantity theory of money) in works like A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963). he is strongly associated with the ideals of laissez-faire government policy.

  3. Karl Marx (1818-1883) German economist, historian, and social philosopher. Marx's principal contribution to economic thought was extending the labor theory of value to its logical conclusion, his theory of surplus value. This theory, along with his defense of economic materialism, appeared in Das Kapital (1867, 1885, 1894).

  4. John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist. He is most famous for The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), which judged most of classical economic analysis to be a special case (hence "General Theory") and argued that the best way to deal with prolonged recessions was deficit spending.

  5. David Ricardo (1772-1823) English economist. Ricardo is best known for Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, which introduced more-or-less modern notions of comparative advantage and its theoretical justification for unfettered international trade. He also put forth the so-called iron law of wages.

  6. John Kenneth Galbraith (1908- ) Canadian economist. Galbraith probably wouldn't make this list if contributions to economic theory were all that mattered; as it is, his liberal popular writings like The Affluent Society and The New Industrial State (with their emphasis on public service and the limitations of the marketplace) ensure his coming up again and again.

  7. Francois Quesnay (1694-1774) French economist. Quesnay was the undisputed leader of the Physiocrats, the first systematic school of economic thought. Among its tenets were the economic and moral righteousness of laissez-faire policies and the notion that land was the ultimate source of all wealth.

  8. Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) English economist. Marshall's magnum opus, 1890's Principles of Economics, introduced the notions of consumer surplus, quasi-rent, demand curves, and elasticity, all fundamental concepts in introductory macro- and microeconomics.

  9. Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) American economist (of Norwegian heritage). Veblen is primarily remembered for his The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) that introduced phrases like "conspicuous consumption." He is remembered for likening the ostentation of the rich to the Darwinian proofs-of-virility found in the animal kingdom.

  10. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) British economist and social philosopher. Mill is mainly known today (in economic circles) for his work extending the ideas of Ricardo in Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844) (for example, the relationship between profits and wages) but also for exhaustively examining the necessity of private property in his Principles of Political Economy (1848).

Do you want another opinion? The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank has its own list of the Great Economists to which you can compare and contrast. With respect to quiz bowl, we will add that Irving Fisher is probably underrepresented in quiz bowl with respect to his importance. We were surprised to see Thomas Malthus on their list as his lasting contributions to economic thought are not thought to be very great; that said, he caused an enormous contemporary stir with his pessimistic predictions of omnipresent starvation in 1798's Essay on Population which does come up quite frequently.

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