Weekend Roundup

pumpkinroundupThis week we celebrated the greatest logician, the greatest economist, and the greatest lyric poet of the 20th century, beginning on Monday with a nod to the 80th anniversary of Kurt Godel‘s Incompleteness Theorem, continuing Tuesday with an attempt to popularize Ken Arrow‘s Impossibility Theorem (which, incidentally, Arrow preferred to call the “General Possibility Theorem”) and on Wednesday with an homage to Dylan Thomas on his 96th birthday.

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok also took on Arrow’s Theorem this week, though it seems to me that Tyler got it wrong, for reasons I explained on Thursday. And on Friday I did my small part to publicize Bob Murphy‘s challenge to Paul Krugman, and how you can help.

More on Monday! In the meantime, happy Halloween!

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2 Responses to “Weekend Roundup”


  1. 1 1 Baxter

    Steven,

    I thought your explanation of Arrow’s theorem was excellent — the best of the bunch. It was also fun (a kind of schadenfreude) to watch you expose the fallacy in Tyler Cowen’s explanation. (He seems to have chosen not to respond.)

    My question is, why do you call Arrow “the greatest economist” of the 20th century? What makes Arrow better than Keynes, Coase, Samuelson, or Hayek, Milton Friedman, Richard Posner, or Frank Knight? How do you measure the greatness of an economist?

    The same question applies to Godel and Dylan, though it’s more obviously the right answer in the case of Godel and a matter of opinion in the case of Dylan. What other 20th Century logicians could contend with Godel?

  2. 2 2 Steve Landsburg

    Baxter:

    With the obvious proviso that matters of opinion are in fact matters of opinion — I do not think that any other 20th century logician contends with Godel. For that matter, I do not think that any other logician in history contends with Godel, except possibly for Aristotle. Dylan Thomas at his best seems to me to have been the best lyric poet since Keats, and unsurpassed since. As for Arrow, I believe it’s accurate to say that most economists (after some muttered disclaimers about the impossibility of ranking people) would rank Arrow as the best and the most influential of the 20th century, for his work in general equilibrium, growth theory, the foundations of finance, etc. To some extent, I’m just echoing that consensus.

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