Economics Olympics
A list of the winners and losers from the world of economic theory
August 1, 2008
Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.

In a previous article, I proposed an economics Olympics. Some elementary and middle schools have done this, but with factual questions, such as what money some country uses. But suppose there were an economics Olympics judging all economists, past and present. These economists would win the gold medals:

Best economic metaphor: Adam Smith, for the invisible hand.

Best literary economics writing: Henry George, whose work was used in English classes.

Best economic historian: Milton Friedman, for his work on the consumption function and the history of money and banking during the Great Depression.

Best original thought: Mason Gaffney, for the "quantum leap effect," the downward jump in production when a firm cannot pass on a tax.

Most influential economist: Karl Marx.

Worst economist: John Maynard Keynes for thinking that we can magically multiply government spending into much greater output.

Greatest reformer: Henry George, who proposed replacing punitive taxes with public revenue from land rent.

Best banking economist: George Selgin, for his book The Theory of Free Banking.

Best critic of socialism: Ludwig von Mises, Austrian-school economist.

Best theory of knowledge: Friedrich Hayek, for pointing out how knowledge of economic activity is decentralized and unknowable to a central planner.

Best on the theory of value: Carl Menger, founder of the Austrian school of thought.

Best on quantifying the dead weight loss of taxation: T. Nicolaus Tideman.

Best theory of economic development: François Quesnay, French economist of the Physiocratic school.

Best analytical theorist: David Ricardo, for analyzing the origin of land rent and the concept of comparative advantage.

Best advocate of freedom: Milton Friedman, for his book and show, "Free to Choose."

Best economic imperialist: Gary Becker, for applying economics to crime, marriage, and other fields.

Best anarchist economist: David Friedman, for The Machinery of Freedom.

Best to integrate economics and ethics: Henry George

Best in social economics: Edward Clarke, for his work on demand revelation.

Best on the economics of government: James Buchanan, for his work on public choice and constitutional economics.

Most profound idea: Henry George, "There is in nature no reason for poverty."

Most general economist: Léon Walras, for his theory of general equilibrium.

Best historian of economic thought: Joseph Schumpeter

Best theory of interest: Knut Wicksell, Swedish economist

Best integrator of theory: Mason Gaffney, integrating Austrian-school capital-goods theory with Georgist land theory.

Best economic forecaster: Fred Harrison, who predicted the 1990 and 2008-10 downturns.

Best graphic economist: Alfred Marshall, for designing supply and demand curves.

Best in using mathematics: Paul Samuelson

Best environmental economist: Arthur Cecil Pigou. A tax on negative externalities such as pollution is named after him as Pigouvian or Pigovian.

Best economics textbook: Principles of Economics, by Greg Mankiw

Best studies of what economists do and think: Daniel Klein

Best central banker: Paul Volcker, who stopped the inflation of the 1970s.

Best economist currently in government: none.

Earliest good economist: Sir William Petty (1623-1687), British economist.

Best game theorist: John von Neumann

Best analysis of human motivation: Adam Smith, for self-interest in The Wealth of Nations and sympathetic action in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Economists with the more than one gold medals are: Adam Smith with 2, Henry George with 4, Milton Friedman with 2, Mason Gaffney with 2. The overall winner: Henry George!

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Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.

FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.

Foldvary is the author of The Soul of LibertyPublic Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.

Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.