Camels, mathematics and the history of economics

Paul Samuelson

“By 1935 economics entered into a mathematical epoch. It became easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a non-mathematical genius to enter into the pantheon of original theorist.”  Paul Samuelson (1976: 25)


Alvin Hansen

This sharp quote taken from Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Paul Samuelson’s eulogy to an influential and notable Harvard economist, government adviser and public intellectual Alvin Hansen. Hansen is best known (but not enough nowadays) for successfully introducing and spreading Keynesian economics in the United States from the 1930s onwards, and for spelling out the implications of the Keynes macroeconomic model for fiscal policy. See more about his life and scientific contribution, in the light of the history of economic thought during the 20th century, in this short instructive article (open access), wich ends with these words: “To [Hansen economics] was the fascinating study of how to improve the lot of humanity.”

Samuelson, Paul. 1976. “Alvin Hansen as a Creative Economic Theorist.”  The Quarterly Journal of Economics 90 (1): 24-31.

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One Response to Camels, mathematics and the history of economics

  1. Jonathan Preminger says:

    “He had seen with his own eyes ordinary men on the frontier carried into prosperity just by virtue of being in the right place at the right time; and their brothers, no less worthy, by the luck of the draw plunged into bankruptcy and ruin.”

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