David Warsh

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David Lewis Warsh (born May 25, 1944) is an American journalist and author who has generally covered topics in economics and finance. Since 2002, he has written and published Economic Principals, a weekly series of essays about economics and economists.


  • Lucas’s “Mechanics” Lectures caught the profession by surprise. His argument enraged some economists and startled or puzzled others. It was his first word on the subject of growth. It seemed to have come completely out of the blue. And even though his interest in the possibility of market failure seemed curiously in tune with fifty years of the Keynesian tradition, it was unfamiliar enough when expressed in the vernacular of Freshwater economics that the lectures at first caused more consternation than anything else, and in most quarters they were studiously ignored. A few young researchers, however, were galvanized into immediate action.
    The notion that trade and migration must be strongly linked to economic growth was hardly new. Nor was the insight that cities must be central to economic progress. Perhaps the real news from Lucas’s lectures was his identification of lock-in as a potentially serious puzzle.
    • David Warsh, Knowledge and The Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery (2006), Ch. 19 : Recombinations

"Ruizismus among the Austrians," 4 December 2011[edit]

David Warsh, "Ruizismus among the Austrians" (4 December 2011)

  • Everyone in Boston of a certain age knows the story of Rosie Ruiz, the marathoner who crossed the Boston finish line in 1980 at 2:31.56, flabby thighs and all, having barely broken a sweat. Despite mounting skepticism, she basked in the glory of having run the third-fastest female marathon in history – for a few days, that is, until a couple of students remembered seeing her jump out of the crowd half a mile from the finish.
    Something of the sort has been going on recently with the shade of Friedrich von Hayek. The Austrian economist, who died in 1992 just short of what would have been his ninety-third birthday, never made false claims for himself – far from it: he knew all too well the loneliness of the long distance runner. And scrupulous work as editor by the late W.W. Bartley, interpreter Bruce Caldwell, and biographer Alan Ebenstein, have made it possible to see the man clear.
    But the claims conservatives are making about the role he played as an economist are beginning to smack of Ruizismus. That is, they have jumped a caricature out of the bushes late in the day and claim that their guy ran a great race.
  • That combination, Hayek, Myrdal and Robinson, might have cast the contributions of each into sharper relief: three pioneers who, after important early contributions, gave up economics for political activism.

Quotes about David Warsh[edit]

  • Monetarism was a powerful force in economic debate for about three decades after Friedman first propounded the doctrine in his 1959 book A Program for Monetary Stability.  Today, however, it is a shadow of its former self, for two main reasons.

    First, when the United States and the United Kingdom tried to put monetarism into practice at the end of the 1970s, both experienced dismal results: in each country steady growth in the money supply failed to prevent severe recessions.  The Federal Reserve officially adopted Friedman-type monetary targets in 1979, but effectively abandoned them in 1982 when the unemployment rate went into double digits.  This abandonment was made official in 1984, and ever since then the Fed has engaged in precisely the sort of discretionary fine-tuning that Friedman decried.  ...

    Second, since the early 1980s the Federal Reserve and its counterparts in other countries have done a reasonably good job, undermining Friedman’s portrayal of central bankers as irredeemable bunglers.  Inflation has stayed low, recessions—except in Japan, of which more in a second—have been relatively brief and shallow.  And all this happened in spite of fluctuations in the money supply that horrified monetarists, and led them—Friedman included—to predict disasters that failed to materialize.  As David Warsh of The Boston Globe pointed out in 1992, "Friedman blunted his lance forecasting inflation in the 1980s, when he was deeply, frequently wrong.

    • Paul Krugman, "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (15 February 2007).

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