Chicago faculty recruiting in 1946 who is Roy Blough how well did these voters do?

by on November 1, 2016 at 2:04 pm in Data Source, Economics, Education, History, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

In 1946 the University of Chicago economics department considered the following individuals for job offers: John Hicks, Paul Samuelson, Friedrich A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Lionel Robbins, A. G. Hart, and George Stigler.

The names making the final vote were Hicks, Hart, Stigler, Friedman, and Samuelson.  The Borda point count method was used, and Hicks turned out to be the clear number one choice.  Neither Friedman nor Samuelson were the number one choices of any departmental voter, while Stigler won three first-choice votes (see Table one in the paper).

The voters themselves were quite prestigious, including Hazel Kyrk, Lloyd Mints, Jacob Marschak, Henry Simons, Tjalling Koopmans, H. Gregg Lewis, Frank Knight, and T.W. Schultz.  If you are wondering, Knight’s first choice was Stigler.  Friedman and Samuelson came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with Samuelson as a distant last place pick.  Schultz however put Friedman dead last.

The winner Hicks was not interested, and that year, Chicago ended up with Friedman and Roy Blough.  Here is the NYT obituary for Roy Blough:

Roy Blough, an economist who served in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, died on Friday at a retirement home in Mitchellville, Md. He was 98.

From 1938 to 1946, Mr. Blough was director of tax research at the Treasury Department and assistant to the treasury secretary. From 1950 to 1952, he was a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Later in the 1950’s, he was principal director of the economic affairs department at the United Nations. He also taught at several universities, including the University of Chicago, from 1946 to 1952, and Columbia University, from 1955 to 1970, when he retired.

He wrote several books, including ”The Federal Taxing Process” and ”International Business: Environment and Adaptation.”

That is all catalogued in this fascinating David Mitch piece, in the latest JPE.  Here are ungated copies and some related information.

Addendum, via Doug Irwin:

Arnold Harberger on Roy Blough: “he came to Chicago and he was a very boring professor. He didn’t inspire anybody to do anything, and he didn’t do very much himself. And he was a little pompous, but nice, a decent analyst, not very deep analytically, didn’t really command the theory of the subject. Then he was named a member of the Council of Economic Advisors and he left Chicago. And all the colleagues sighed a sigh of relief and said, “Gee, we found a way to get rid of him.”

http://www.cmmayo.com/interview-ARNOLD-C-HARBERGER.html

To replace Blough, they hired Arnold Harberger, I am told.

1 Pshrnk November 1, 2016 at 2:24 pm

1984 draft: Olajuwon; Bowie; Jordan.

2 Mr Punch November 1, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Blough a lot better than Bowie

3 Ray Lopez November 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Considering that largely the Keynesian multiplier is zero and money is both short term and long term neutral, Roy Blough, with his knowledge of farmers planting seasons and railway timetables, was an excellent choice.

4 mkt42 November 1, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Fascinating indeed. Still there seems to be more of an air on inevitability to how the department evolved, rather than a “road not taken” story here. Hicks and Samuelson clearly decided that they’d rather be at Oxford and MIT than move to Chicago. For all the hesitation and back-and-forthing about Friedman and Stigler, in the end they both ended up at Chicago. I’m guessing that it was equally inevitable that the Cowles Foundation would leave Chicago for Yale.

I wonder if similarly Jacob Marschak found Chicago an ill fit, and that is why he left? That’s a departure that I have not heard stories about. (I used to be roommates with two of his granddaughters, but I don’t think either knew much about his academic econ past, although they did say that the family story is that planning the annual AEA meeting was so much work that it led to the stroke that killed him.)

Despite being a student at the University of Chicago, I never met Friedman (who I think was spending more time at the Hoover Institution by then) nor Stigler (I did attend a lecture that he gave). There’s a lesson there about the seeming advantage of attending a top research university, when the reality is that the undergrads will rarely see most of the top professors. I did write a somewhat random letter to each of them (this was years before email or blogs had been invented) and they sent gracious letters in reply.

5 Ray Lopez November 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

What about Nobelist Buchanan and George Mason University? How many courses did he teach? And does our illustrious host teach classes at GMU, which news informs me Miley Cyrus visited recently, or is he just a twerking publicity stunt for economics?

6 mkt42 November 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I have to confess that I never heard of some of the other economists mentioned, such as A. G. Hart and Roy Blough. I had heard of Hazel Kyrk, but I’m still not sure what her legacy is.

7 Cove99 November 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

Chicago Econ undergrad early 80″s…..I had Sam Peltzman and d gale Johnson for micro and Robert barro and Charles Kahn for macro (though I think I spent 40 hours a week reading David laidler, David laidler, David laidler). All about the quarter system and needing a year and a half for core Stigler was a giant(figuratively and literally) who apparently swam every morning at Ida Noyes

8 mkt42 November 2, 2016 at 1:05 am

I had Theil for econometrics, which is not nearly as good as it sounds: this was a baby econometrics class, it may not have even had an intro statistics prerequisite, much less matrix algebra or mathematical statistics. He tried to teach us two-stage least squares at a level that undergrads could understand, but I understood little of it (beyond recognizing that when you have both supply curves and demand curves, simply fitting a curve to a scatterplot is not a good idea; this is still a canonical example of how econometrics can have an inherent advantage over a-theoretical machine learning algorithms).

Mishkin for macro, I was never a macro guy and I think most undergrads need a gifted teacher to truly understand macro and Mishkin was merely okay not gifted as a teacher.

And that was it for the big names teaching the undergrad classes that I took (and that’s if we count Mishkin as a big name; probably only economists would recognize it). I did take McCloskey’s non-mathematical grad level price theory class; an excellent class but as an econ senior by then I knew most of the price theory principles. I also randomly took a graduate macro class, which turned out to be taught by Lucas, but the math was way beyond what I was ready for.

These up-close-and-personal departmental histories seem to be a new thing in economics (and maybe in any discipline?). In recent years we’ve seen similar histories of MIT’s rise, in much more detail than the standard “anti-Semitic Harvard let Samuelson slip through its hands” outline.

9 Larry Siegel November 2, 2016 at 3:29 am

I must be older than you. I had Friedman for 301 and Stigler for Public Control of Econ Activity.

10 Mark November 1, 2016 at 3:14 pm

“He was 98. From 1938 to 1946, Mr. Blough was director of tax research at the Treasury Department and assistant to the treasury secretary.”

So he was born in 1918 and at the tender age of 20 he was hired as the director of tax research for the United States of America.

I suspect a typo.

11 Ray Lopez November 1, 2016 at 3:16 pm

…Or a tyro (sic), think about it.

12 Art Deco November 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

He was born on 21 August 1901. The obituary was published in February 2000.

13 Dave November 1, 2016 at 4:49 pm

The obituary is from 2000.

14 rayward November 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

This year Chicago moved up to a tie for 3rd (with Yale) in the U.S. News college rankings (behind Princeton and Harvard). If Chicago were located on the east coast or the west coast I’d guess Chicago would be ranked first. According to Wikipedia, the number of “officially affiliated” Nobel laureates from Chicago exceeds those “officially affiliated” with Harvard or with Columbia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_university_affiliation. What’s more, Chicago graduates reflect a cross section of occupations and ideologies. It is America’s greatest university, and has been for many years.

15 Troll me November 1, 2016 at 3:46 pm

If it were on the coast, it would not have been located at the continental centre for international commodities trade with access to the sea via the Great Lakes, the reason that there would have been a renowned economics faculty there in the first place.

16 i just pulled an eye muscle November 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Frequently contrary, infrequently cogent.

17 Douglas Irwin November 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Arnold Harberger on Roy Blough: “he came to Chicago and he was a very boring professor. He didn’t inspire anybody to do anything, and he didn’t do very much himself. And he was a little pompous, but nice, a decent analyst, not very deep analytically, didn’t really command the theory of the subject. Then he was named a member of the Council of Economic Advisors and he left Chicago. And all the colleagues sighed a sigh of relief and said, “Gee, we found a way to get rid of him.”

http://www.cmmayo.com/interview-ARNOLD-C-HARBERGER.html

As a result of losing Blough, they hired Al Harberger!

18 Stephen Blough November 1, 2016 at 4:31 pm

As Roy Blough’s grandson I may be biased, but in fairness I think Harberger’s full statement should be quoted for context:

What had happened was that they had lost Henry Simons, who had been a great figure in public finance. And then there was a curious thing. His successor was Roy Blough, who had been in charge of tax analysis in Treasury in Washington during the war. While there, he assembled a magnificent group of people who worked with him. Milton Friedman was there, Ruth Mack was there, and Carl Shoup was there, Bill Vickrey was there. Goodness knows whoall was not there at one time or another. Somewhere in my library — he willed it to me — I have a set of documents that they produced, and it is absolutely impressive. Shoup and Mack and Friedman did a paper on the consumption tax, like 1943… it’s a classic. It may not be the first thing on the consumption tax, but it’s one of the best. And very early. There were many other good things produced by that group. So it was natural that they would think he’d be a wonderful professor. Well, he came to Chicago and he was a very boring professor. He didn’t inspire anybody to do anything, and he didn’t do very much himself. And he was a little pompous, but nice, a decent analyst, not very deep analytically, didn’t really command the theory of the subject. Then he was named a member of the Council of Economic Advisors and he left Chicago. And all the colleagues sighed a sigh of relief and said, “Gee, we found a way to get rid of him.”

19 dearieme November 1, 2016 at 5:10 pm

So the economists at Chicago hadn’t really understood Division of Labour?

20 Ray Lopez November 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Yes, but do the economists at the Department of Labor understand the Division of Labour (UK)?

Seems like Blough was resting on his laurels after the war, and/or was more of a manager rather than a researcher, which explains why he was named to the Council of Economic Advisors.

21 wwebd November 1, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Stephen Blough – Your comment reminds me that “slow history” is the only way to understand history. (First and last time I quote Mencius Millbug/Moldbug). (I know more about famous lit departments than famous econ departments but there is not that much difference – Nabokov was not that good a literature professor: J.M. Keynes was not even the brightest son in his family: Borges and Tolstoy both thought that Shakespeare was overrated, which tells us that Borges and Tolstoy must necessarily be overrated themselves, and would not have made for good literature professors). I was quoted once in the Washington Post on real estate and the quote was taken out of context and wrong. Knowledge is good.; I would have preferred to be accurately quoted (but newspapers are fantastically perishable and my real estate misquote has been mulched and nearly completely forgotten for the last 20 summers and winters. And even if it hasn’t been, 20 more summers and winters and it will be). Ray Lopez: everybody is more of a manager than a researcher, just like everybody prefers well baked bread to Wonder bread. Dearieme: You probably do not know this, being from Scotland or somewhere near that, but Chicago academics are the most unreliably excitable academics in the United States; i.e., they do not always mean what they say, but they are proud of that, and do not always say what they mean, and they are proud of that too. Something to do with the location , I guess. Anyway, Mr. Blough, I for one am grateful to your grandfather for his service to this country during a very difficult and uncomfortable time.

22 wwebd November 1, 2016 at 11:01 pm

the 40s were a hard decade for everyone who was not privileged with abundant health and unusually good luck. Almost nobody cares about that now, but that which was true once remains true.

23 Larry Siegel November 2, 2016 at 3:33 am

Excellent post, but I’m a terrible manager and a good researcher.

24 wwebd November 3, 2016 at 12:26 am

Larry Siegel: I am not always accurate when describing reality: I try, but reality is complicated.

25 Stephen Blough November 2, 2016 at 8:32 am

wwebd – Thank you for your kind remarks. Roy Blough was most certainly not a “researcher,” and would never have represented himself as one. Since the Harberger interview was published before he died, I suspect he was aware of it; perhaps his response is somewhere in his papers. But I imagine his reaction being something along the lines of “those who can’t do, teach, and vice-versa!” – and proud of falling on the “do” side that divide. He made many important contributions to the actual on-the-ground implementation of tax policy, not just at the Federal but at the US state level, and with developing country governments while at the UN. Apparently in 1946 such work was still valued in by some in academia.

26 wwebd November 3, 2016 at 12:35 am

Stephen Blough – You are welcome. I would have enjoyed meeting your grandfather, and although I do not like posting on websites, I am glad I said what I said.

27 Marianne Johnson November 3, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Blough was hired to replace Simeon Leland who accepted a deanship at Northwestern in March/April of 1946. From Simons correspondence, it seems he pushed for Blough to be hired (and certainly supported his candidacy). Perhaps with his ill health, he knew Chicago would need a public finance guy the next year. EIther way, Simons died in June of 1946. Buchanan held a poor view of Blough and didn’t think him a very helpful dissertation advisor. Chicago hired Richard Goode (another Wisconsin PhD, oddly enough) in 1947 to help round out the public finance teaching. Blough left for the CEA in 1950. Buchanan intimates he was courted to Chicago, but didn’t want to “embroider around the edges” of Chicago price theory for the rest of his career and turned them down. Harberger was next on the list.

28 Donald Pretari November 1, 2016 at 6:44 pm

“37 See HSPUC Box 6, Folder 1. Paul Samuelson’s letter to Simons dated March 26, 1945 mentions that Lionel Robbins had “reputedly dropped his old Haiakian deflationism, accepting as axiomatic the necessity for government to adopt unorthodox fiscal policies.” In his reply dated April 3, 1945, Simons stated: “I like being bracketed with Hayek, as political economist— if not as monetary theorist; and I wish I had even a little of his merits as a student of social thought. Even in monetary matters, he’s reformed probably as much as Robbins, and earlier. ( NB- Don )”

A few years back, I believe I read a letter from Simons to a correspondent that I cannot remember from 1938 which stated that Hayek had come to agree with the view of deflation put forth by Simons. I still have not located that reference, but it does seem verified by what Simons says here.

29 C.M. Mayo November 1, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Dear Tyler, For a quite a while now I have been a big fan of your Marginal Revolution, checking in almost daily. Imagine my surprise to find that you had linked today’s post to my interview with Arnold C. Harberger. Although it has been more than 20 years since that interview was first recorded in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, and more than a decade since its publication in ECONOMIA MEXICANA, it is such an unusually rich interview; I would encourage anyone with an interest in economic history to have a read. Many kind regards from Mexico City,

30 Steve Sailer November 2, 2016 at 1:25 am

“John Hicks, Paul Samuelson, Friedrich A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Lionel Robbins, A. G. Hart, and George Stigler.”

There was a lot of talent available in 1946 in general in multiple fields.

That might actually something to do with why the Depression didn’t return in 1946 and instead unexpected prosperity reigned.

31 Marianne Johnson November 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Stephen Blough please email me at johnsonm@uwosh.edu. I have just finished a draft of a paper on Roy Blough and the public finance origins of fiscal policy.

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