Monday, March 15, 2010

Popularity Parade Counts for Not Much

Justin Wolfers writes in Freakonomics (15 March) HERE

“Hayek Propped Up by Government Intervention”

“… the Texas Board of Education [wants] to rewrite the high school curriculum in accordance with its conservative values.”
How do they plan to rewrite high school economics?

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, to the usual list of economists to be studied – economists like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes
… There’s no doubt about the influence of Smith, Marx and Keynes; Friedman also belongs. But does Hayek belong on this list?

Let’s use data to inform this debate. I counted the number of references to each economist in the scholarly literature indexed by JSTOR, finding 30,708 articles mentioning “Adam Smith”; 25,626 articles mentioning “Karl Marx”; and 4,945 mentioning “John Maynard Keynes”. “Milton Friedman” sits easily with this group, and was mentioned in 8,924 articles.

But searching for “Friedrich von Hayek” only … 1561.

By the way, “Lawrence Summers” was mentioned … 2064.

This exercise suggests that Larry Summers is more influential than Hayek, and so I’m led to conclude that teaching “insights from Larry Summers” involves less of an ideological subsidy than teaching “insights from Hayek.

I’m not suggesting we do either, only that we set the bar for teaching economic ideas at a uniformly high level. If this cuts out Summers, it cuts out Hayek.

These data suggests that Hayek just doesn’t belong with Smith, Marx, Keynes, or Friedman. In fact, it seems that despite having enjoyed a much longer period to accumulate citations, he is still much less widely cited than Larry Summers. Sure, Hayek was an insightful economist. But insisting that high schools teach Hayek is a clear statement of ideology, not of economic science.

The message from the Texas Board of Education seems to be: If you can’t win in the marketplace of ideas, turn to government institutions to prop you up. I don’t think Hayek would approve.

A fair point but hardly ideological.

If you checked JSTOR for the metaphor of an ‘invisible hand’ I wonder how many mentions it would get?

I’d check myself but I do not access…


Blogger Paul Walker said...

Have you seen this posting at Marginal Revolution?
Measuring Hayek's citation count

8:31 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Thanks Paul for the link
I am not sure what these 'counts' really show.

If you asked 10,000 economists at random, I m sure that more will have heard of Hayek than any other modern economist.

Many of the citations are criticisng the named person, not showing their influence on them.

Hence, I remain sceptical.


11:19 am  

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