Chapter 19

Getting to Know Ten Great Macroeconomists


Meeting ten influential macroeconomists

Understanding their contributions

Like any academic discipline, macroeconomics relies on the incremental progress of researchers, each building upon and improving previous work — like bricks holding up a wall or, more salubriously, adding new ingredients to old cocktail drinks.

Here are ten famous economists who had a huge impact on macroeconomics. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives us great pleasure to introduce…

Adam Smith (1723–1790)

Here he is … the big daddy, not just of macroeconomics but economics as a whole. Adam Smith was the first person to think seriously about modern economic problems. His ability to observe the world around him and to describe the motives and mechanisms that underlie what he saw remains impressive to this day. It lies at the heart of all good social science.

Smith wrote his most influential work in 1776: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He argued that people acting in their own self-interest may serve the common good better than if they try to “do good” intentionally. Smith writes:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

This idea was — and still is — extremely radical ...

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