Why Armen Alchian Is the GOAT
Tyler Cowen has a new online book out titled “GOAT: Who is the Greatest Economist of All Time, and Why Does it Matter?” While there are potential problems in treating ideas like basketball, the project is a fun, fast read overall. As the author of a newsletter with frequent gifs, I’m all for encouraging light-hearted discussions of economics and economists (in addition to the super serious work that needs to be done).
What does it mean to be the GOAT, according to Tyler?
To qualify as “GOAT the greatest economist of all time,” I expect the following from a candidate. The economist must be original, of great historical import, serve as a creator and carrier of important ideas, have a hand in both theory and empirics, have a hand in both macro and micro, and be “not too wrong” on the substance of issues. Furthermore, the person also must be a pretty good economist! That is, if you sat down with the person and discussed economic issues, you would be in some way impressed.
I won’t spoil Tyler’s answer, but we see from the table of contents that the main contenders are Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, J.M. Keynes, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Malthus, and Adam Smith.
Readers of our Economic Forces (heck, readers of the title of this post) newsletter will notice that Armen Alchian, our newsletter’s avatar, is not on the list. Alchian isn’t even on Tyler’s list of “names who deserve greater consideration,” a list that includes Homer. Yes, the poet. I know Homer reads The Economist, but c’mon! No mention of Alchian is a travesty! (It wouldn’t be a GOAT discussion without some hyperbole.)
So here is my case for why Armen Alchian is the GOAT.