“Funeral by Funeral, theory advances” – Paul Samuelson
Paul Samuelson is one of the developers of both neo-Keynesian and neoclassical economics, the later of which still dominates mainstream economics. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for having written considerable parts of economic theory, and he is one of the ten Nobel Prize winning economists still signing the Economist’s statement opposing the Bush tax cuts. One of Samuelson’s many novel contributions was that he generalized and applied mathematical methods developed for the study of thermodynamics to the field of economics. His inspiration for doing so came, in part, from his mentor, polymath Edwin Bisdwell Wilson who was a former Yale student of the founder of chemical thermodynamics, Willard Gibbs. Samuelson, therefore, is a successful example of interdisciplinarity, and he combined these ideas in his magnum opus Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947).
A year later he published his ubiquitous Economics: An Introductory Analysis, the best selling economics textbook in history. It was written in response to the Great Depression and World War II, and it sought to reduce slumps in economic development by popularizing the insights of John Maynard Keynes. Samuelson wrote: “It is not too much to say that the widespread creation of dictatorships and the resulting World War II stemmed in no small measure from the world’s failure to meet this basic economic problem adequately” (Mankiw, 2009). Samuelson was referring to the problem of the Great Depression, and he drew the idea from Keynes’ belief that international peace concerns economic policies (Markwell, 2006).
Mankiw, Gregory. “Is Government Spending Too Easy an Answer?” in New York Times (January, 2009).
Markwell, Donald. John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace. New York, NY: OUP, 2006.