Thursday, 25 March 2010

Family Tree of Economics [update 5]

I needed a ‘Family Tree of Economics’-–which you might also call a Family Tree of Economists--for a project a few friends are working on (don’t worry, I’ll tell you about it shortly).

Click to enlarge.

I couldn’t find a decent one, so I produced my own.  Here’s a first third fourth fifth draft.  Comments?

UPDATE 1: Thanks for your comments.  A few improvements made.  Any more to make?

UPDATE 2: Thanks again.  A few additions, and few more corrections made.  What do you think?  A little too busy now, perhaps?

UPDATE 3: Okay, this latest version has a lot more changes.  And it’s a lot more busy. I think I need to start cutting . . .

UPDATE 4:  Now we're really  getting there.

I think this is a vast improvement on the last version, which was losing most of the clarity.

You’ll note, among other things, that there are two general streams of thought emerging out of history—one of which, with some exceptions, is largely ignored by the mainstream—and the other of which is largely in praise of big government. 

That the last time there was general agreement was back just after the Marginalist Revolution, around the turn of the last century, out of which ‘progressive’ era all the various fragmented schools of today really emerged.

That many things (both good and bad) began with Knut Wicksell.

That there was economics (both good and bad) before Adam Smith.

You might note too the profound distance between the two Britons Philip Wicksteed and Alfred Marshall over the direction of the Marginalist Revolution—a distance measured both by their separation in the chart and reflected in Wicksteed’s (correct) assertion that Marshall and his followers were insufficiently aware of how radical that revolution was, making them little more than “a school of apologists” for the failures of the classical school to construct a valid theory of value.

That there’s really no such thing as a  “neo-liberal” school—a “school” which exists only the minds of Susan St John, Jane Kelsey and their fellow travellers.

That for some decades after the British Classical School codified the study of economics, Karl Marx’s version of their work virtually had the English-speaking world to itself—which explains a lot--but his influence in economics a century later was less so than it was in other fields.

That until recently mainstream economics took very little from the seminal stream of Austrian thought, except what the “Neo-Classicists” took from Hayek and (the partial-Austrian) Schumpeter.

That there is a direct line forward from Carl Menger (“the true and sole founder of Austrian economics proper”) through Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and Ludwig Von Mises to Mises's student George Reisman; and from Reisman back to the many valid but now-forgotten ideas of the Classical School—and an indirect line back from John Maynard Keynes back to the the unsound and misbegotten fallacies of Malthus and the mercantilists, and forward to the ‘Neo-Classical Synthesis’ that institutionalised those errors and wrote them into a generation's worth of textbooks. . .

So it’s getting there.  Mind you, it’s still not perfect. I haven’t included all the economists who feature on the various ’ten most influential economists’ lists of all-time, or even of the twentieth-century. And I’m now under heavy pressure from Will Wilkinson and a couple of others to add the New Institutional School . . . even though I have got Ronald Coase in there.  At the moment.

Rest assured that I’ll be speaking to a historian of economic thought on Wednesday—as you do—to get some more perspective, and to get firmly upbraided for my errors.

UPDATE 5:  The new, improved and final version is now posted above {click to enlarge).  There's a link to download a full-size version just to the right of this on the main idebar.  Please feel free to use as you will, just as long as you mention that it originated here.  And feel free to drop me a line telling me where it's ended up.


  1. Interesting Peter, I'll have a good look over the weekend.

    Is it possible to state succinctly the difference between the Austrian and Chicago schools? (Don't worry if not).

  2. You definitely need a line from Wicksell directly to Buchanan.

    It's been too long since I've done History of Thought. But pick up both Blaug's formidable work and Rothbard's history. Rothbard's view of history of thought is idiosyncratic at best, error-ridden at worst, but certainly entertaining. Blaug's the granddaddy on History of Thought.

  3. @Eric: Done. Thanks.

    And yes, everything you say about Rothbard's history is correct.

    Mind you, you could say the same about Adam Smith's. And Keynes's. :-)

    Have you come across Frank A. Neff's 'Economic Doctrines'? George Reisman recommends it as a useful history of economic thought, but I haven't seen it around.

  4. I am wondering where Coase/Williamson might fit in (if at all).

    Some indication up the left or the right as to time period such as 1800s etc would be helpful.


  5. @Julian: I wouldn't have thought they were sufficiently distinctive?
    Wouldn't he be subsumed under 'Chicago,' just as Tullock is subsumed under 'Public Choice'?

    Regarding dates: can do. You think it will help?

  6. Interesting graphic (and project).

    Odd, is it not, that on the pro-Austrian side there doesn't seem to be anyone under 70. Is that just a reflection of the flowchart being a work in progress?

    P.S. Does Henry Hazlitt qualify as being in there somewhere? Perhaps Thomas Sowell deserves an honorable mention somewhere as well.

  7. P.S. If you're going to single out Paul Krugman, you might toss Christine Roemer onto the left as well.

  8. @Jeff: I wasn't wanting to add too many current economists, since the plethora of contemporary chaps would rather downgrade the contribution of earlier chaps and chappesses.

    (You could say I've made an exception wKrugman, who represents a whole range of mainstream 'thought'--although many might say that as he's no longer an economist, I'm entitled to use him :-).)

    But there are plenty on the pro-Austrian side who are under 70 making significant contributions, if I had room and the plan to use them here, including Roger Garrison, Jorg Guido Hulsmann, Jesus Huerta de Soto et al.

    I suspect that Henry Hazlitt would be happy to be considered one of the world's finest economic journalists, rather than an economist--a populariser of other's economics rather than one making original contributions in his own right. Sowell is probably in the same category. (Yes, I know, that leaves us looking hard at Bastiat, but what can you do?)

  9. Hey, Nice work making a flow chart. A few things I have in mind are:

    1) There should really be a line between Ricardo and Marx, the economics associated with Marx would not have existed with Ricardo.

    2) Keynes took almost nothing from Marx, so that line is a bit overstating it. People like Robinson took Marx and Keynes more closely together in order to sell policy prescriptions. There is a large gap between Keynesianism and Keynes.

    3) Krugman is not modern mainstream macro :P . I would go as far as to say that Barro is closer to the mainstream. Need Lucas and even Mankiw inbetween Krugman and Barro I think.

  10. @Matt: Thanks for that. I'll make a few changes.

    1) Seems to me Marx came more from Mill (labour-theory of value) and Smith (C-M-C theory). But I'd intended a line from the classical school. Ooops.

    2) Oops again. That line was supposed to be from Marx to Robinson.

    Looks like I didn't spend much time on the left side of the page. :-)

    3) I'll have a fiddle, and see what you think.

  11. What happened to Schumpeter - the first to really recognise that innovation drives wealth creation and that consequently the economy is not a zero sum game.

    "Waves of creative destruction" – a seminal phrase.

    Otherwise hard to fault at a glance.

  12. Hernando De Soto on Property Rights?

  13. Regarding the Chicago school - you need Al Capone and Jimmy Hoffa in there, with a direct line leading to Barack Obama...

    Seriously, thanks for this - the diagram and the intelligent responses from the others give me much to read and think about.


  14. Robert Winefield26 Mar 2010, 06:54:00

    A follow-up chart to show how freedom orientated each was might be useful for context...

  15. PC

    Put the younger Austrian economists in there as each has contributed (and put Hazllett in brackets- his was to make important ideas accessible). Schumpeter should be in there as Owen recommends.

    Krug should be identified as the court jester he is. Perhaps he should be out as he really doesn't contribute anything valuable (he just rehashes old falsehoods again and again).


  16. Schumpeter: He's a difficult one.

    Studied under Bohm-Bawerk, then influences the likes of Thorstein Veblen et al. Hard to fit in, but I've tried.

    Hernando De Soto: There's two de Sotos on there now--but you're right, Hernando is a good choice. Today's Bernard Siegan. ;^)

    "A follow-up chart to show how freedom orientated each was might be useful for context..." Well, the grey shading on the right-hand-side is an indication . . .

    "Put the younger Austrian economists in there as each has contributed..."

    Done. But it's looking very busy now.

    Who would you take out?

    "Krug should be identified as the court jester he is. Perhaps he should be out as he really doesn't contribute anything valuable..."

    Well, he did win the Nobel for work on free trade. And now he's talking up protectionism.

    So the question might be "WHICH Krugman?"

    But he is well known. And influential. Which is what this is really about.

  17. You have done very well and it grows more difficult as you fine tune it because these are not uni-dimensional people.

    To some people the Austrian School are identified as a group because they write in plain english - in the tradition of Adam Smith.
    Economics went through a stage when only econometrics counted - if you couldn't model it was not worth doing. Once we realised that economies were chaotic systems (like climate) then econometrics began to lose its grip.
    So in the late 20th you could probably have a left hand group whose papers are dominated by maths and a right hand groups whose papers are dominated by plain language.
    That's why PC instinctively groups Smith and Rothbard.
    Samuelson is a difficulty.

  18. The new institutional school is conspicuously missing. This would be the convergence of Coase, Hayek, Public Choice, North, Williamson...

  19. hi peter!
    i am maricon and i am now in fourth year high school in daniel r.aguinaldo nat'l high in the phil....
    your family tree of economics is complete but it's too complicated but thanks, i'll share it to the class...
    i'll try my best to copy it...
    can i?
    thank you!