Ken Arrow, RIP

Ken Arrow was, until his passing today, the world’s greatest living economist. There are so many tributes to him all over the web that it would be superfluous for me to write another. Here’s a nice one.

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13 Responses to “Ken Arrow, RIP”


  1. 1 1 Harold

    I first came across him via his impossibility theorem, but there was obviously much, much more to him.

  2. 2 2 Ken B

    Impossible.

  3. 3 3 nobody.really

    I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Oh, wait–never mind.

  4. 4 4 iceman

    Saw him speak once on a panel along with Gary Becker, Merton Miller and Harry Markowitz, moderated by Michael Milken. Even then he seemed like the smartest guy in the room.

    Unrelated, this might make for an interesting post topic:
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/news/us-highway-death-rate-can-be-cut-to-zero-cass-r-sunstein/ar-AAndw3A

  5. 5 5 nobody.really

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/news/us-highway-death-rate-can-be-cut-to-zero-cass-r-sunstein/ar-AAndw3A

    Yup, cost-effective regulation may well reduce highway traffic fatalities–perhaps down to 0.

    But when they do their cost/benefit analysis, do they take into account all of the unforeseen consequences of these regulations?

  6. 6 6 Steven Reilly

    If you and Slate are foreseeing that consequence, is it really unforeseen? (This comment inspired by another recently deceased nonagenarian, Raymond Smullyan.)

  7. 7 7 iceman

    Nothin else goin on so…

    Nice, a negative externality to justify a new program to offset the impacts of a previous program; maybe a tax credit for organ donation? (Of course some say a free market would solve this.)

    Probably some good ideas here but not encouraging that the first example is a simple reference to seatbelts (I believe this was the very first topic in The Armchair Economist).

    And surely regulations would not literally be cost-effective all the way to zero, even if we ignored indirect costs economists would include like time spent being pulled over for seatbelt violations.

    BTW I believe the backstory here is that the author wrote this after being hit by a car.

  8. 8 8 Harold

    The very notion that organ donors drying up as a result of improved traffic safety demonstrates that he organ donation system is rubbish. A free market in organs might be better. I believe there is a need for regulation as despite the free market theories I think exploitation is a possibility. Maybe a simple opt-out system would be OK. You are assumed to be an organ donor unless you register otherwise.

  9. 9 9 Enrique

    Back to Ken Arrow. Wasn’t he really more of a political theorist/philosopher/logician than an economist?

  10. 10 10 iceman

    #9 – don’t think so, my take is he was a world-class economist who was a major part of the effort that Gary Becker is probably best known for, of showing how the tools and way of thinking of economists could be applied to things nobody would have associated with economics before.

  11. 11 11 Steve Landsburg
  12. 12 12 nobody.really

    [Arrow] was a world-class economist who was a major part of the effort that Gary Becker is probably best known for, of showing how the tools and way of thinking of economists could be applied to things nobody would have associated with economics before.

    Tell me about it. I would have applied econ tools to all kinds of topics long before Arrow and Becker—but why bother? The list of people getting credit would always put them ahead of me. (…damn alphabetical order….)

  13. 13 13 Enrique

    Thanks Steve. The second link is especially helpful, but it arbitrarily excludes Ronald Coase. Also, like Coase, I am not much impressed by welfare economics. Yes, Arrow’s technical feats are impressive, but the worth of the all the work proving “general equilibrium” is such a waste of talent …

  1. 1 Some Links - Cafe Hayek

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