This is the odd course out in a first-year curriculum that consists of math, optimization, statistics, constrained optimization, market equilibrium, econometrics, general equilibrium, intertemporal optimization, and dynamic stochastic general equilibrium. What is economic history doing here? I want to point you to an interview that the Atlantic Monthly's Conor Clarke conducted with the late Paul Samuelson[1]:

Clarke: "What would you say to someone starting graduate study in economics?..."

Samuelson: "Well, I'd say, and this is probably a change from what I would have said when I was younger: Have a very healthy respect for the study of economic history, because that's the raw material out of which any of your conjectures or testings will come. And I think the recent period has illustrated that. The governor of the Bank of England seems to have forgotten or not known that there was no bank insurance in England, so when Northern Rock got a run, he was surprised. Well, he shouldn't have been. But history doesn't tell its own story..."

Let's see if we can develop and deepen what our Uncle Paul said...

[1] <


I. Growth and Development

II. Macroeconomics

III. Comparative Systems

  • Alex Tabarrok (2010), "Soviet Growth and American Textbooks" <>.
  • David Levy and Sandra Peart (2009), "Soviet Growth and American Textbooks" <>. (Note: in some ways Levy and Peart inhabit a strenge alternate universe: Rose Wilder Lane, V. Orval Watts, and William F. Buckley were not and should never be called "libertarians"--well, maybe Wilder Lane, but only if you overlook her enthusiasm for Herbert Hoover and her McCarthyite campaign against Lorie Tarshis.)

Writing Assignment:

  • Write a 200-500 word essay on any of the three sets of readings, discussing whether in your view a knowledge or lack of knowledge of economic history is helping or hindering the economists who write and whose ideas are discussed in the readings. At least 18 hours before the first class--by 6 PM PST on January 19, 2010--email your paper.
  • You might, as you write your essay, think about one or more of the following questions: week 1 questions

Thoughts, Notes, and Questions:

Web Page:

Additional and Optional Readings: