Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Is There No Milton Friedman Today?

Econ Journal Watch asks Why Is There No Milton Friedman Today? That is, why are there no superstars of economics? One could perhaps ask the same things of a number of a number of fields. The sciences, including the social sciences, go through periods of "normal science" and periods of "revolutionary science." Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, Paul Samuelson, J.M. Keynes, Mises, et al were of the generation of economics' revolutionary period. We have perhaps settled into the "normal science" era of economics.

We see this same thing in philosophy, with times of revolutionary creativity followed by scholasticism. We are clearly in the latter period in philosophy as well. And the same thing takes place in the arts. We went from the creativity of high modernism to the relative stagnation of postmodernism.

In each case, we see a transition from relative stability, as people work on the well-established problems, working out the details on the margins. But when people reach a certain point, where the models are no longer working to describe the world well, we get revolutionary periods, during which time we get the giants of the field. Milton Friedman was one such person, born and working at the right time.

Basically, this is a network effect. We expect this kind of punctuated equilibrium when there is a network.
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