[Bill] Gates…took Mike Spence’s famously difficult advanced microeconomics course — at the very dawn of the excitement about "bandwagon effects," monopolistic competition, and network economics. Enrolled in the course as well was Steve Ballmer, a fellow cardplayer with whom Gate had grown friendly. The two finished first and second in the course, but Gates didn’t wait for his grade.
That is from David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations. Maybe this is the book of the year so far (I can no longer remember how much I liked Stumbling on Happiness).
While it pretends to focus on a single article — Paul Romer’s 1990 piece on endogenous growth — the book is a tour de force through growth theory, the economics profession, the world of public intellectuals, and how science works. Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, Bob Solow, and Bob Lucas play prominent roles, in addition of course to Romer. If you want to read one book on how the economics profession works, this is it.
I’ve never seen anyone write as well as Warsh about the social world of economic research, a world of brilliant, often eccentric people who bear no resemblance to the dreary suits you see discussing the economy of CNBC. It’s a world of informal manners yet intense status competition…
The book will please both specialists and neophytes. Warsh’s coverage is so thorough that even yours truly makes a few cameo appearances. I thank David for the coverage, and I recommend his book highly.