Wednesday, May 12, 2010

in the beginning there was...

I literally feel flooded with information at this point.

There is so much to digest. Please, read through the following articles and take a look at this history. It is truly astounding and I'm still not completely sure of everything going on here. All I can say is, "Wow."

Our documentation of the political motivations of the anti-Mankiw start with the impressive story of Samuelson and the post-WW II prolific economists of the two econ department powerhouses of Harvard and MIT. To remind the reader: the point is to document in excruciating detail the connections between the politics and the economics. Mr. Mankiw has been so adamant of separating the two in his critiques(?) of my views. But as the following articles demonstrate, politics and economic ideology has been intricately linked from the beginning, providing the strong political basis for an anti-Mankiw.

In this post, we begin by trying to answer the question: "Were there political reasons why Samuelson, after initially taking a Junior Fellow position at Harvard, accepted a position at MIT in the Fall of 1940?"

And thus the roller-coaster begins -- trust me readers, all of these articles are a must:

And we begin...

The Harvard Crimson reports on Samuelson's earning the Nobel here:

As you see even from this early stage, Harvard is obsessed with linking Nobel winners in economics at other universities to their own university in some way. For a contemporary example of that, see this report on Ostrom winning the prize in 2009. It is important to keep this in mind because of the strong blend of politics and elitism central to our critique:

This next article is interesting because it outlines the first documented attempt to replace Samuelson's book in the Introduction to Economics curriculum at Harvard (in 1964) with a book written by Harvard professors. The official switch did not happen until 1978 (a book by Richard Lipsey and Peter Steiner):

One extremely interesting point is the significance of Lipsey's work, and therefore a suggestion for why Lipsey's book replaced Samuelson's. And it demonstrates once again the issue of politics and economic ideolgoy. The Wikipedia article on Lipsey says the following:
Lipsey was the protagonist and protector of the doctrine of the Phillips curve, which held that a tradeoff existed between unemployment and inflation. At the 1968 American Economic Association meetings Milton Friedman countered Lipsey's arguments in what was perhaps one of the great arguments in economics.
In other words, the choice of textbooks matches perfectly with the issues economists and politicians began to have in the 1970s with Keynesian economics!!!

The following is a very interesting documentary of the historic rivalry between Harvard and MIT, which finally answers the question at the core of identifying the space for an initial political motivation behind an anti-bourgeois text. It is central to our critique. Please take a look:

It mentions several crucial moves between Harvard and MIT in the 80s, such as Larry Summers and Olivier Blanchard. But here, here is really the money quote that sinks the ship:

Some professors date Harvard and MIT's rivalry in economics back to an unmistakable controversy in the early '40s when Paul Samuelson, then a graduate student at Harvard, was passed over for a faculty appointment at the University. At the time, widespread reports attributed Harvard's failure to hire Samuelson to anti-Semitism.

Samuelson accepted an offer from MIT's young, unspectacular department, and proceeded to dominate the field of economics as few other scholars have in the century. Almost single-dedly, he attracted a long string of outstanding graduate students and faculty members to MIT, most notably Robert Solow.

"It will take half a century for Harvard to recover from that anti-Semitism," Otto Eckstein. Warburg Professor of Economics, told Business Week recently. Part of that effort to recover has included regular tenure offers to Solow and Samuelson, reportedly including an offer of a University Professorship to Samuelson.

We see here a potential validation of our hypothesis from above -- from a Crimson article in 1982!

But there is much, much more to come, as we enter the early to mid 70s and the ideological bias extends itself to other much more important political spheres.

Coming up, then?




...and much, much more.... stay tuned!


  1. Don't forget the Paul Sweezy affair:

    "One issue for Sweezy in this time period was whether he would resume his teaching position at Harvard and whether he would continue to pursue a career within the academic profession. Having taken a military leave during the war, he still had two years left on his five-year contract as an Assistant Professor at Harvard. During the war an opening had come up for a tenured position in economics at Harvard, where it was necessary to appoint someone immediately. Sweezy was one of the two candidates considered for the job. The other was John Dunlop, who was subsequently to become a well-known labor economist and Secretary of Labor in the Ford administration. Schumpeter was a very strong supporter of Sweezy’s candidacy. Schumpeter wrote to the Dean Paul H. Buck in May 1945 that Sweezy’s The Theory of Capitalist Development was “a masterly exposition of the Marxian system of thought” and that “this task…has been attempted by dozens of economists of all countries [but] has never before been done so well.” Responding to criticisms that Sweezy was a Marxist, Schumpeter wrote to the Dean: “Whether we accept Marxian economics or not, it is of sufficient importance in economic thought to justify the task of propounding it from the standpoint of which it was conceived.”(7) Dunlop, however, received the tenured appointment. After his return from the war, Sweezy inquired among his friends in economics at Harvard about the chances of his securing a tenured position. It was made clear to him, no doubt partly based on these prior circumstances, that there was then no chance of a Marxist obtaining a tenured position. Sweezy later insisted that if he had not been so fortunate as to have had access to surplus value through his family inheritance he would probably have been forced like so many others to succumb to the kinds of controls and pressures inevitably exerted on those who earn their livings through the academy. As it happened, however, he was under no such need to conform. He therefore decided not to resume his former teaching position following his military leave."

  2. Dan have you listened to the introduction the Phrenology Album by the Roots? I was looking for a link to it online but couldn't find it. It rolls into the "Rock You" track.