Paul Samuelson: New York Times Obituary

The career of the late Paul Samuelson is well described in this obituary.

6 replies on “Paul Samuelson: New York Times Obituary”

Sad news, though one could only be impressed by how the great man continued to contribute at the highest level up to the very end—for instance, his recent contributions on gains from trade.

Paul Krugman’s reaction here

For what it’s worth, from my graduate student days I can add that the house that Samuelson and Solow built from scratch — MIT’s Department of Economics — was very much in their image. Though I didn’t know Samuleson personally, the department was always very much as Krugman described Samuelson’s personality — “completely without airs”.

Beyond MIT, this man more than any other built modern economics as we know it. People may quibble with the state of economics today but the quibbles should be directed at today’s economists rather than the extraordinary contributions of Prof. Samuleson.

This was my favourite part:

When the Depression began, governments stood pat or made matters worse by trying to balance fiscal budgets and erecting trade barriers. But 80 years later, having absorbed the Keynesian teaching of Mr. Samuelson and his followers, most industrialized countries took corrective action, raising government spending, cutting taxes, keeping exports and imports flowing and driving short-term interest rates to near zero.

I can just see Charlie McCreevy smacking his head and going “oops!” right now.


Samuelson, surveying 2,000 dinner-jackets from the rostrum at the NYSE annual dinner about 30 years ago: ‘It sure takes a lot of you guys to make these markets perfect!’

This is from an article by Joseph Lawler in The American Spectator, :

Some examples of statements from various editions of his Economics that seem fairly outrageous today:

“It is a vulgar mistake to think that most people in Eastern Europe are miserable.” [1981]

“What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth…The Soviet model has surely demonstrated that a command economy is capable of mobilizing resources for rapid growth.” [1985]

“[T]he Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and thrive.” [1989]

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