Book Panel Jan Tinbergen and the Rise of Economic Expertise, Episode 27

In this episode we present a book panel on the book Jan Tinbergen (1903-1994) and the Rise of Economic Expertise (CUP, 2021) by our regular host Erwin Dekker. Reinhard Schumacher provides a brief introduction to the panel which is chaired by Arjo Klamer, Professor of Cultural Economics at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The panel opens with reflections on the book and the legacy of Jan Tinbergen, the first Nobel Prize winner in Economics and famous econometrician, by another Nobel Laureate James Heckman, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. The other panelists offer their reflections on the econometric and economic contributions of Tinbergen, and in particular his role as broker between academia and policy circles, a main argument of the book is that Tinbergen secured a permanent place for economic experts and models in policy circles. They also explore Tinbergen’s socialist convictions, his internationalism and dedication to peace, as well as his and their personal motivations to be an economist.

A cataclysm sentence for economics, Episode 26

  • Guests: Peter Bent, François Allisson, Herman Daly and Sara Stevano (see below for more information).
  • Host and Producer: Maria Bach, Centre Walras Pareto, Unil, Lasuanne (former Assistant Professor of Economics at the American University of Paris)
  • Guest hosts: Wilhelm Aminoff, Wyatt DeLong, Farrah Aridou, Jonathan Noulowe II and Paul Harding, students of a history of economics course at the American University of Paris.

Inspired by Radiolab’s episode on the cataclysm sentence, this episode explores whether we could find a cataclysm sentence for economics. Radiolab had found out about the famous and award winning physicist, Richard Feynman, who in the 60s wanted to revamp the physics undergraduate degree to get more researchers into physics. He started his course at Caltech with what he called the cataclysm sentence, which is:

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

We changed it a bit to apply only to economics:

“The one piece of economic knowledge that you would pass on to a future society if ours were to perish in a cataclysm.”

Along with students at the American University of Paris, we interviewed four people, an economic historian, an ecological economist, a feminist political economist and an historian of economics. Here is the list of their cataclysm sentences:

Peter Bent, Department of Economics, Trinity College, Connecticut, USA

Julie Nelson’s (UMass Boston) definition of economics: “The study of the ways societies organize themselves to provide for the survival and flourishing of life.”

Herman Daly, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, USA

“Although not reducible to biophysics, the human economy is nevertheless ecologically constrained, especially in its primary macroeconomic goal of aggregate growth, by the fact that it is a physical subsystem of a finite ecosphere that lives from a non growing  entropic flow of solar energy captured by scarce and depleting terrestrial materials.”

Sara Stevano, Department of Economics, The School of Oriental and African Studies, London

“Power relations are intrinsic to economic phenomena at multiple and interconnected scales.”

François Allisson, Centre Walras Pareto, Unil, Lausanne

“Economics was a temporary science
Necessary in times of perceived scarcity
To understand the ways
In which human needs
Translated
In various ways of organising human activities”

(pictured above)

While everyone had slightly different takes on the task and took us down different avenues of knowledge, there were several common themes. So fasten your seat belts, as we take you on a journey of discovery and at times a rather philosophical, utopic and radical discussion about what really matters.

Featured music (apart from the usual intro and outro music): Sounds by Jordan Powell, Erokia: https://freesound.org/people/Erokia/

James Buchanan and the Soul of Classical Political Economy, Episode 25

In this episode, Erwin talks with Alain Marciano and Pete Boettke about The Soul of Classical Political Economy a book they co-edited with archival material from the James Buchanan archives located at George Mason University. James Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in 1986 was an American economist who started as public finance scholar, who established the field of public choice and pioneered the constitutional political economy approach. They discuss the formation of the archives since Buchanan’s death in 2013, his role in the development of the Virginia School of Political Economy, his academic entrepreneurship and attempts to develop intellectual centres in sometimes hostile academic environments as well the evolution of his research program. Pete Boettke details the way in which Buchanan attempted to create a vibrant intellectual environment at the various universities in which he worked. Alain Marciano, who is working on an intellectual biography of Buchanan, explains the way in which the archives inform his project and how life and work became one for Buchanan.

Relocating Modern Science with Kapil Raj, Episode 24

Join Maria Bach for an interview with Kapil Raj about his approach in the history of science. Dr. Raj is Professor of the History of Science at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris. In particular, they discuss Raj’s book Relocating Modern Science.

Links to works and institutions mentioned:
1. The Go Between by L.P. Hartley
2. The Lund Centre for History of Knowledge (LUCK)

Marginalised Voices, Episode 22

In this episode, Maria interviews three scholars who study underrepresented or what she calls marginalised voices in the history of policy and economics. They discuss why they came to study such lesser known figures and how the research can give us new perspectives. They also share the difficulties and constraints that they face. Jaci Eisenberg studied American women who contributed to the League of Nations. Gerardo Serra studies the history of economics and statistics in 20th century Ghana. Sharmin Khodaiji researches the institutionalisation of political economy in India. Listen to find out more about their research!

Parenting in Academia, Episode 20

Hosts: Maria Bach and Reinhard Schumacher
Production: Maria Bach

In this episode, we interview Beatrice Cherrier to talk about what it is like being a parent in academia – the ups, the downs and all the things we can do to make life and work easier.

South Asian Intellectual History with Andrew Sartori, Episode 19

In this episode, Maria shares a recent interview with Andrew Sartori, an intellectual historian at NYU. Andrew discusses his work in South Asian Intellectual History and how he ended up in this relatively small field when he started. He also talks about how he deals with the international diffusion of ideas. Finally, they debate the need to find a distinct Indian way of thinking and how this perceived need makes it hard to research in this area of study. Check out his publications here.

Defining and Measuring Poverty, Episode 16

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere Source: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/

In this episode, Maria Bach explores how poverty has been defined and measured over time inspired by her work with Mary Morgan recently published in the History of Political Economy Journal (https://read.dukeupress.edu/hope/issue/50/S1)

The episode features notably Amartya Sen, Frances Stewart, Stephen Marglin and Mary Morgan.

Here is a list of the books, websites and articles mentioned in the episode:

1. GSDRC‘s definition of poverty
2. UNESCO‘s definition of poverty
3. The Economist’s article on defining poverty
4. Poverty and Social Exclusion Project based in the UK
5. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen’s An Uncertain Glory, 2013
6. Howard Glennerster, John Hills, David Pichaud and Jo Webb’s One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy, 2004
7. Seebohm Rowntree’s Poverty: A Study of Town Life, 1908
8. The New York Times article on How to define poverty? by Louis Uchitelle, 2001
9. The UN Intellectual History Project
10. The IMF and World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)
11. Frances Stewart and Michael Wang’s working paper on Do PRSPs empower poor countries and disempower the World Bank, or is it the other way round?

The book that never gets old, Episode 15 with Tiago Mata

In this episode, Christina and Tiago discuss Eric Roll’s book on the History of Economic Thought. A popular history that circulates in many editions and languages, Christina and Tiago explore the book’s making and the reasons for its success. The episode focuses on biographical aspects of Eric Roll, on the book’s critical reception and evolving structure.

Tiago Mata is a Lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Tiago has dedicated himself to the study of “Economics in the Public Sphere”, leading a team of scholars in researching the communication of economic knowledge since 1945. He has worked on political movements in economics, in particular the resurgence of the Left in 1960s and 1970s North America and how it enacted new ways to think the economy, expertise and social justice. He has also worked on the communication of economic knowledge and statistics and the development of business magazines and how they straddle the worlds of print and management, accommodating transformations in American corporate capitalism. Besides these topics, he also works on social science methodology and the funding regimes of the social sciences.

Christina Laskaridis co-hosts the Ceteris Never Paribus podcast, is a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies and a former research fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy.

We would like to thank to Laura Comicini for the clip in Italian, Roger Backhouse and Keith Tribe for sharing his interview with Eric Roll with us.

This episode makes use of the British Library’s Sounds Collection, and the Oral History recording with Eric Roll.