November 20, 2006

Most ill informed sentence of the week

A lot of liberal bloggers (for example here) have linked to this editorial from the Guardian that is very critical of Milton Friedman and his policy stances. I could go point by point defending Friedman (or pointing out the policy proposals of Friedman's that the author ignores, like the negative income tax, volunteer army, etc.) but I think the author sufficiently discredits himself when he claims:

Even the "Chicago school" at the University of Chicago has waned in influence, eclipsed by the mighty MIT army of economists that followed Samuelson.
Now I could be wrong about this, but where is the author coming from with this. Since 1991 Chicago has had five of its faculty members win the Nobel prize, another four members of the "Chicago School" won the prize since '91. The last time someone from MIT won the prize was 1987! I'm not sure the number awards garnered by the larger "MIT School" but I doubt it is going to out do Chicago's numbers. On top of that, Chicago has some of the best young economists in the country. Steven Levitt and Kevin Murphy are both winners of the John Bates Clark Medal (an award given every other year to the top economist under 40) and John List is a likely contender for 2007. Granted, Levitt went to MIT for his PhD, but his intellectual connection to the school is about as intense as Samuelson's was for the U of C (where Samuelson did his undergraduate work). MIT does have one current Clark medalist, but that just makes MIT and Chicago very close in terms of influence, nothing close to the editorial's claim that the U of C's influence waning.If Chicago's influence in economics is waning then that comes as news to me, and probably most economists who have been signaling a very different belief for the past 15 years.