Earl Thompson has passed away at 71

by on July 31, 2010 at 10:16 pm in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

Scott Sumner offers a tribute.  Earl Thompson was one of the most genuinely creative economic minds of his generation.  In my view he was often wrong, such as when he argued that markets would overproduce (excludable) public goods.  Nonetheless his work always inspired fruitful thought, even if one did not accept his conclusions.  Here is his famous paper on taxation and national defense.  He used "national defense" arguments to try to explain the pattern of government subsidies and taxes.  His paper on monetary theory will make your head spin.  Here is his paper on the economics of charity.

Here is Earl offering advice to Obama and sounding like Scott Sumner.  He attributed excessively tight monetary policy to banker (i.e., creditor) control of the Fed.  Read this too; he disliked the Bernanke reappointment.

Here is my review of Earl's book; read the first six lines.

Here is his home page, with many more links to articles.  Here is a UCLA obituary:

Earl Thompson was an eccentric in an age of conformity. He kept odd hours: he was alone in his office in Bunche Hall at 4:31 AM on January 17, 1994 when the Northridge earthquake hit, where he found himself unharmed but covered with fallen books. He loved muscle cars, dressed as if the 1950s were just yesterday, and always had a sneaky grin on his face. He will be missed by his colleagues, his students, his friends and his family.

Earl Thompson was an American original.

1 CGG August 1, 2010 at 1:55 am

I had Prof. Thompson as an undergrad at UCLA for economic analysis of law. He would always come into class with cowboy boots and sunglasses. Tyler’s review of his book could also easily apply to his course. Everything you know is wrong, he argued – but in a way that really makes you think.

Perhaps the one thing that sticks in my mind most was his quote about the A+ students: “They’re the most screwed up” (at a school that gives you 0 marginal reward between and A and A+; it’s easy to see why).

The lessons I learned in that class will be with me for a long time. RIP, Prof.

2 TGGP August 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I recall David Friedman critiquing Murray Rothbard’s attack on Adam Smith as a statist, noting that Smith often doesn’t come to a firm conclusion on who should provide a good. Thompson’s first sentence in his public goods paper seems to echo Rothbard’s take on Smith.

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