Foreign Policy List of Most Influential

To get a sense of the perceived influence of economics on global thinking, it is worth looking at Foreign Policy magazine’s list of 100 most influential thinkers. An economist beats Obama to first place. Other economists who rank highly include Thaler and Sunstein at number 7, Robert Shiller at number 22, William Easterly at 39, Paul Collier at 36 and Esther Duflo at 41. Others on the list include Stiglitz, Ostrom (we claim her now!), Stern, Roubini, Sachs, Krugman, Posner, Sen, Buiter, Oster.

link here

18 replies on “Foreign Policy List of Most Influential”

One omission from this list, in my view, is James Heckman. His work on building education systems and reducing inequality is becoming some of the most policy influential work to come out of economics and will become even more so. It perhaps has not got into media debate as much as would be needed to make this type of list but is having a huge impact.

The economists are having a good crisis. In Ireland they are doing very well, especially on NAMA. I would have thought it would be the Arts and sociology professors who rebelled against massive theft by our elite. Few would have foreseen that when the hour of revolution came only the economists would be manning the barricades (or in today’s terms, sitting in the studios).

The economists are probably no different in their indignation than sociologists & other academics but we have the advantage that we can talk-the-talk & hence have a certain credibility. By this I mean, of course, academic economists not the many charlatans passing themselves off as economists in the private sector.

Bernard Henri-Levy ahead of Dominique Strauss-Kahn? And no Olivier Blanchard?

Also I would have had Krugman higher in the economists stakes – possibly the highest of the non-policymaking economists.

I started “Nudge” and have listened to Thaler speak at the LSE. I was not impressed by either the beginning of the book (which irritated me too much for me to persevere with it) or by the LSE speech. The biggest nudge was the nudge to the buy the book as far as I could see! If Thaler and Sunstein are at No. 7 then the World has a problem!

@zhou (or’s answer to the stig)

it’s worth reading some of the articles. I give a course on behavioural economics that I am updating now. Website should be treated like a building site but there are a lot of references there. “Nudge” has been a mixed blessing in that it is very folksy and can look trivial in places. On the other hand, it has taken the literature (which Thaler in particular was a founding figure) and put it squarely on political and business agendas in Europe and the US in particular. I am doing a “pub book club” on it next week though I know you could never come lest your true identity be revealed. If an elderly chinese man is sitting beside calmly sipping his pint, ill say hello.

@Kevin Denny
We have a corrupt, morally bankrupt elite. They are engaging in a morally bankrupt bailout of themselves through NAMA. Other academic disciplines are by now well aware of this. They know all they need to know. They should not be hiding behind a lack of technical knowledge. Sociologists, political scientists and historians should have plenty to say about this and they should be saying it loudly. Too many business and banking experts have kept silent with even less excuse. Geographers and civil engineers should be pointing out every case of reckless building or waste of money.

To my mind the only group of people who have provided a shining example of the case for academic freedom in our recent history have been the academic economists. I am sad to say it but when tested the other disciplines have been complete failures.

I have not questioned state control and funding of our universities in the past but it really needs to be questioned now.

Unaccustomed as I am to defending these folks, you need to remember that they don’t have the same access as us economists. Rightly or wrongly, people don’t care what they think. That said, we all have our civic responsibilities.
But I think there is something to be said for people to focus on their areas of expertise. When a heart surgeon talks about cardiology I am inclined to take him seriously, less so when he professess on banking.
However I don’t see why this raises any questions about university funding. After-all bus drivers have been pretty quite about these matters too- do you want to cut funding to CIE?

@Kevin Denny
Historically speaking (appropriately enough) historians have been very vocal in Ireland. They have said next to nothing about any aspect of our many crises. There are plenty of academics who are qualified to talk about issues relevant to our crises. I have given examples – I am sure there are many others. Historians have, historically, had lots of media access. They still do. Other academics have as well.

“However I don’t see why this raises any questions about university funding. After-all bus drivers have been pretty quite about these matters too- do you want to cut funding to CIE?”

No, I am not suggesting reducing university funding to punish them. I was saying that fears of what the government may do to funding – because it is entirely decided by the state – may be discouraging academics from speaking out. Due to this I was saying that there was a question mark over state funding.

Maybe other disciplines are just not interested.


Thanks for that. I am downloading Vernon Smith on rationality courtesy of your links as I type. I find it easier to listen to podcasts while driving or walking these days rather than reading. I don’t think I’ll make the pub but if a guy turns up in a fake moustache and starts dissing Thaler that will be me! Generally, I think behavioural economics is important and I really enjoyed Shiller’s talk at the LSE. Thaler just rubbed me up the wrong way in print and in audio.

@Kevin Denny
I would not be shocked if Minister Lenihan decided that there was a drastic oversupply of academic economists in the country and attempted to put this right. I can just see the twinkle in his eye. I hope that in that event all academics would stand with their colleagues.

The real problem I have about the state, which I defend, is that it does encroach onto our liberties.

Economists are dedicated not to the market, but to the state. Some have seen this and set up schools of thought opposed to the state in order to ensure those liberties.

The Austrian school attempts to show us the truth about markets and mercantilism. When the state gets involved in economic matters it distorts the entire area and can allow the small minded to dominate the rest via state mechanisms.

Hence banks take over states.

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