Facts about W. Arthur Lewis

1. He was born in St. Lucia in 1915 and studied economics at the LSE.

2. He straddled the ground between the Hayekian free market economists and the socialists.

3. He stressed the role of education in economic growth.

4. He fleshed out "dual economy" development models in which labor supply is virtually unlimited.  He argued that the marginal product of labor could be zero in some sectors, and that in developing economies more labor should be allocated to manufacturing.

5. He saw growth as a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional process, requiring balance across sectors.

6. He was the major economic advisor to Ghana in 1957-58.  He resigned in disgust.

7. He ran The University of the West Indies from 1959 to 1963.

8. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1979.

9. He is no longer cited much by top development researchers.  Empirically his major propositions do not seem to have stood up (p.262).

10. He finished his career at Princeton.

Did he deserve to win a Nobel Prize?  Robert Tignor’s new W. Arthur Lewis and the Birth of Development Economics never quite asks this question.  He does treat part of the Caribbean intellectual (and cultural) renaissance of the second half of the twentieth century.  I liked this book, but I am still waiting for the broader volume which treats King Tubby, Hector Hippolyte, and Lewis all in the same broader social and economic context.

Here is Lewis’s autobiographical statement.  Here is a brief summary of his work.  Here is a sample chapter of the Tignor book.


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