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There were several criterion employed in ranking the economists.
First of all, the economist should have great influences in economics. He / she should have substantial theories which could be applied in the real world and could be used as reference to other economists.
Then he / she should enjoy his / her works in finding theories or developing his / her own ideas, he / she should show enthusiasm in studying economics. If he / she could enjoy his / her works, he / she would concentrate in the process of defining the theories and ideas and would give better results. Hence, meaningful and great economics theories would be formed.
Third, he / she should dedicate to spread the ideas of economics so that all people could receive the concepts of economics and hence improve the economy in the world.
Spreading the economics ideas was very important, other could make changes to his / her concepts and correct them.
Finally, he / she should have contributions to the society. It was very important for the economist to consider the public benefits when creating his / her own ideas which might have great influence to the society. As economics relates the allocation of resources in the world, the economics theories created might affect the wealth distribution in the world.
Among the twelve great economists discussed in this course, I would rank Alfred Marshall the first and Lerner Abba Potachya the second.
In my point of view, Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) who was the first economist I learned in this course, was the greatest economist among the twelve. He was just like the father of economics. He contributed most of his life in economics.
When he started teaching political economics at St John’s College, he was committed his career to developing this subject and helping to transform it into a new science of economics. He spent several years in developing and defining his economics ideas and deepening his understandings. He also visited the USA to probe economic conditions, and throughout his life he was tireless in his efforts to master the practicalities of the economic world. It seems that most of his life was surrounded by economics.
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Being the professor, although able students interested in economics were in short supply, Marshall did teach and influence several students who were to make contributions to economics. He was patient to spread the ideas of economics to other and successfully influenced other to become great economists. The more economists in the world, the better the economics theories would be formed. A.C. Pigou and J.M. Keynes were the great economists who were the pupils of Marshall. His pupils followed his ideas and developed their own concepts or even improve Marshall’s ideas. A.C. Pigou was one of the great economists we studied, most of his theories have combined with Marshall’s and even used to compare with Marshall’s. This could enhance the theories of economics and hence benefit to the whole economy.
Marshall published the first standard textbook in economics (Principles of Economics) which was the most influential treatise in economics and have many important concepts. This book went through eight editions in his lifetime. It showed that he improved his concepts continually and shouldered the responsibility in spreading the best ideas of economics to the public.
Although most of the Marshall’s concepts were incomplete and sketchy, they also gave general ideas to the latter economists. So, Marshall’s conceptions of economics were the foundation of other concepts.
Marshall saw economics as concerned with those aspects of human behaviour open to pecuniary influences and sufficientty regular and ubiquitous to permit statements of broad scope and some persistence. When we study economics nowadays, we also need to concern about the human desires. We have to find out solutions to solve the different human desires problems.
The conception of competition in Marshall's manufacturing case is closer to the ideas of imperfect or monopolistic competition. When we study microeconomics, we will learn about the types of competitions in the industry. Marshall gave his own ideas in the trend of industry shifting from one state to another.(e.g. An industry would pass to monopoly if other firms’ products were highly substitutable.) This concept is still acceptable. This shows that Marshall’s ideas were far reaching.
Marshall's major contribution to international trade theory was his well-known geometrical analysis of the equilibrium and stability of two-country trade by means of intersecting offer curves. Today, we use demand and supply curves to analyse the activities in the market. Without any doubt, the geometrical analysis is very useful in studying economics. It gives clear analysis and explains the phenomenon of the market logically by showing the relationship of curves.
Marshall had great contributions of economics in his life, he not only met the criterion I set above but also made me realize that studying economics is important to the society and it is a long route to achieve.
Lerner Abba Potachya (1905-1982) was chosen as the second as he also had great contributions to economics and had great influence to other economists.
Most of the economists were mathematical economists. Having the knowledge of mathematics was useful to economists to think logically and solve some economics problems (e.g. “demand and supply” requires some techniques in mathematics.). However, Lerner was one of the great non-mathematical economists, he was a lifelong socialist. Without some mathematical knowledge, he could still create his own ideas of economics and even tidy up and clarify other ideas. After his clarifications, most of the ideas became more important and useful than before. For example, Lerner wrote article to make Keynes’s employment theory simple and generally intelligible. His efforts in improving and clarifying other ideas could let other understand the general concepts of economics easily for study.
Although he only had great ambition in improving economy, he had many meaningful economic theories. His innovations in microeconomics (The general ideas of macroeconomic of Lerner was mainly related to the government and employment in society, it was subjected to the rules for maintaining prosperity.) and international trade theory were very useful which became an integral parts of every economists standard equipments. It seems that he not only provided useful ideas for other to think logically but also give general rule to maintain the prosperity in society. That why he was a successful economist in the world.
Lerner’s “The Economics of Control” became and remained the most comprehensive non-mathematical text on welfare economics, which was written for the planners and administrations of a decentralized socialist economy. It was acted as rules for the optimal allocation of resources. This rule was important for the distribution of resources in socialist economy so as to prevent unfairness.
Lerner was one of the founders of the theory of the market pricing in the decentralized socialist economy (Lange-Lerner Theorem). He showed that a decentralized socialist economy was possible for ideal resources allocation to be achieved through a price system. This made the comparison between capitalism and socialism meaningful and equally efficient. It helped to improve the relationship between different market systems.
In my opinion, compared with Pigou’s analysis of macroeconomics of unemployment, the ideas given by Lerner was more reliable. Pigou suggested that aggregate unemployment could be cured by cutting money wages while Lerner suggested that if there was not enough spending by the government, there was excessive unemployment. In real case, there is minimum wage applied in some societies so as to protect the workers. This indicates that unemployment rate related to the wages. The higher the salary, the lower the unemployment rate. Hence Lerner idea was more reasonable as it is a well-known fact that if the government spends on infrastructure, the unemployment rate will decrease. So Lerner’s idea matched more to the reality.
To sum up, all the twelve economists have their contributions to economics, otherwise their histories and ideas would not be learnt by us. Alfred Marshall and Lerner Abba Potachya are the two great economists impressed me most.