Paul Samuelson, fully Paul Anthony Samuelson

Paul
Samuelson, fully Paul Anthony Samuelson
1915
2009

American Economist, Winner of Nobel Prize in Economics, Author, Professor of Economics at MIT

Author Quotes

It is not easy to get rich in Las Vegas, at Churchill Downs, or at the local Merrill Lynch office.

The modern saving-investment theory of income determination did not directly displace the old latent belief in Say's Law of Markets (according to which only "frictions" could give rise to unemployment and over-production). Events of the years following 1929 destroyed the previous economic synthesis. The economists' belief in the orthodox synthesis was not overthrown, but had simply atrophied: it was not as though one's soul had faced a showdown as to the existence of the Deity and that faith was unthroned, or even that one had awakened in the morning to find that belief had flown away in the night: rather it was realized with a sense of belated recognition that one no longer had faith, that one had been living without faith for a long time, and that what, after all, was the difference? The nature of the world did not suddenly change on a black October day in 1929 so that a new theory became mandatory. Even in their day, the older theories were incomplete and inadequate: in 1815, in 1844, 1893, and 1920. I venture to believe that the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries take on a new aspect when looked back upon from the modern perspective, that a new dimension has been added to the rereading of the Mercantilists, Thornton, Malthus, Ricardo, Tooke, David Wels, Marshall, and Wicksell.

Women are men without money.

Herein lies the secret of the General Theory. It is a badly written book, poorly organized; any layman who, beguiled by the author's previous reputation. Bought the book was cheated of his five shillings. It is not well suited for classroom use. It is arrogant, bad-tempered. Polemical, and not overly generous in its acknowledgments. It abounds in mares' nests or confusions. In it the Keynesian system stands out indistinctly, as if the author were hardly aware of its existence or cognizant of its properties; and certainly he is at his worst when expounding its relations to its predecessors. Flashes of insight and intuition intersperse tedious algebra. An awkward definition suddenly gives way to an unforgettable cadenza. When finally mastered, its analysis is found to be obvious and at the same time new. In short, it is a work of genius.

Man does not live by GNP alone.

The niceties of existence were not a matter of concern, yet everything around was closed down most of the time. If you lived in a middle-class community in Chicago, children and adults came daily to the door saying, 'We are starving, how about a potato?' I speak from poignant memory.

Yes, 1932 was a great time to be born as an economist. The sleeping beauty of political economy was waiting for the enlivening kiss of new methods, new paradigms, new hired hands, and new problems. Science is a parasite: the greater the patient population the better the advance in physiology and pathology; and out of pathology arises therapy. The year 1932 was the trough of the great depression, and from its rotten soil was belatedly begot the new subject that today we call macroeconomics.

I cannot agree. According to recent trends of thought, the interest rate is less important than Keynes himself believed? As for expectations, the General Theory is brilliant in calling attention to their importance and in suggesting many of the central features of uncertainty and speculation. It paves the way for a theory of expectations, but it hardly provides one. I myself believe the broad significance of the General Theory to be in the fact that it provides a relatively realistic, complete system for analyzing the level of effective demand and its fluctuations. More narrowly, I conceive the heart of its contribution to be in that subset of its equations which relate to the propensity to consume and to saving in relation to offsets-to-saving. In addition to linking saving explicitly to income, there is an equally important denial of the implicit "classical" axiom that motivated investment is indefinitely expansible or contractible, so that whatever people try to save will always be fully invested. It is not important whether we deny this by reason of expectations, interest rate rigidity, investment inelasticity with respect to overall price changes and the interest rate, capital or investment satiation, secular factors of a technological and political nature of what have you. But it is vital for business-cycle analysis that we do assume definite amounts of investment which are highly variable over time in response to a myriad of exogenous and endogenous factors, and which are not automatically equilibrated to full discussion employment saving levels by any internal efficacious economic process.

Mea culpa, mea culpa. MIT and Wharton and University of Chicago created the financial engineering instruments, which, like Samson and Delilah, blinded every CEO. They didn't realize the kind of leverage they were doing and they didn't understand when they were really creating a real profit or a fictitious one.

The recent market run-up that appreciated run-of-the- mill shares also chanced to send up those token gold holdings. Pure luck, undeserved and unlikely to reoccur. Good questions outrank easy answers.

You could be disqualified for a job [at Harvard] if you were either smart or Jewish or Keynesian. So what chance did this smart, Jewish, Keynesian have?

A force that operates year-in and year-out, whenever we are at high employment, to push up prices. It's a price creep, not a price gallop; but the bad thing about it is that, instead of setting in only after you have reached over full employment, the suspicion is dawning that it may be a problem that plagues us even when we haven't arrived at a satisfactory level of employment.

I couldn't reconcile what I was being taught at the university of Chicago, the lectures and the books I was being assigned, with what I knew to be true out in the streets.

No author can complete a survey of Keynesian economics without indulging in that favorite in-door guessing game: wherein lies the essential contribution of the General Theory and its distinguishing characteristic from the classical writings? Some consider its novelty to lie in the treatment of the demand for money, in its liquidity preference emphasis. Others single out the treatment of expectations.

The stock market has forecast nine of the last five recessions

You know what happiness is: 'Having a little more money than your colleagues.' And that's not so tough in academic life.

A new system, that is what requires emphasis. Classical economics could withstand isolated criticism. Theorists can always resist facts: for facts are hard to establish and are always changing anyway, and ceteris paribus can be made to absorb a good deal of punishment. Inevitably, at the earliest opportunity, the mind slips back into the old grooves of thought, since analysis Is utterly impossible without a frame of reference, a way of thinking about things, or, in short, a theory.

I don't believe we're converging on ever-improving forecasting accuracy.

Of course, the great depression of the thirties was not the first to reveal the untenability of the classical synthesis. The classical philosophy always had its ups and downs along with the great swings of business activity. Each time it had come back. But now for the first time, it was confronted by a competing system?a well-reasoned body of thought containing among other things as many equations as unknowns; in short, like itself, a synthesis: and one which could swallow the classical system as a special case.

The very name of my subject, economics, suggests economizing or maximizing. But Political Economy has gone a long way beyond home economics. Indeed, it is only in the last third of the century, within my own lifetime as a scholar, that economic theory has had many pretensions to being itself useful to the practical businessman or bureaucrat. I seem to recall that a great economist of the last generation, A. C. Pigou of Cambridge University, once asked the rhetorical question, ?Who would ever think of employing an economist to run a brewery?? Well, today, under the guise of operational research and managerial economics, the fanciest of our economic tools are being utilized in enterprises both public and private.

You shouldn't spend much time on your investments. That will just tempt you to pull up your plants and see how the roots are doing, and that's very bad for the roots. It's also very bad for your sleep.

A respect for evidence compels me to incline toward the hypothesis that most portfolio decision makers should go out of business -- take up plumbing, teach Greek, or help produce the annual GNP by serving as corporate executives. Even if this advice to drop dead is good advice, it obviously is not counsel that will be eagerly followed. Few people will commit suicide without a push.

I don't care very much for the People Magazine approach to applied economics.

Politicians like to tell people what they want to hear - and what they want to hear is what won't happen.

There are very few people or organizations who have any presumptive edge over a low-cost, no-load set of indices, particularly on a risk corrected basis. People used to say that you're settling for mediocrity. Isn't it interesting that the best brains on Wall Street can't achieve mediocrity?

Author Picture
First Name
Paul
Last Name
Samuelson, fully Paul Anthony Samuelson
Birth Date
1915
Death Date
2009
Bio

American Economist, Winner of Nobel Prize in Economics, Author, Professor of Economics at MIT