Dead But Not Gone: A Quick Tour Through the History of Economic Thought

Carroll Perry

Mondays, January 29 - March 12 (not February 19) 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. 6 sessions
King's Chapel Parish House, 64 Beacon Street

Why would anybody embark on such a quest? It makes no sense, or does it? Probably the 20th century’s greatest economist, John Maynard Keynes, once said that all of us – knowingly or otherwise – are in the thrall of some defunct economist. We make few economic decisions today that haven’t been thoroughly thought through before. But we don’t know who did the thinking, or what they thought. More importantly, we don’t know what happened. This deprives us of one of the greatest contributions that economics has made. Modern economics is not very good at predicting what will happen and what we should do. Human behavior in the aggregate is still too complicated. But economists are between good and sensational at telling us what we should not do. And the list is long. This we owe to the founding fathers of economics, from Adam Smith on down through Milton Friedman, and the great debates and policy responses they have spawned through the years.  

We will be assisted in this tour through economic history by a delightful book, New Ideas from Dead Economists, written by Todd Buchholz. We will look at today’s debates – scrap NAFTA, deficit spending and the national debt, money in politics, health care for all – and find a “dead economist” who had views on the subject. With their wisdom in tow, we’ll come up with our own answer. No graphs or charts. The next time you make an economic decision, argue with a grandchild, or go into a polling booth, we want you to be able to mentally drop a name (Adam Smith said…, David Ricardo believed….). More importantly, we want you not to feel alone.

Teaching Style: Seminar     Weekly Preparation: 1 hour

    Carroll Perry

    Carroll Perry taught economics at Phillips Andover for the last 12 years of his career. Prior to that, he spent 25 years as an international banker with BankBoston. He has lived extensively in Latin America and Asia and, after college, he and his wife were Peace Corps volunteers.  He is a graduate of Williams College and did graduate work at Johns Hopkins.