Who are the most influential economists?

Everyone is up in arms over the list supplied by The Economist.  I won’t go through those debates.  Let me just note that for all the talk of wonk this, data that, and Generalized Method of Moments this that and the other, every now and then the best algorithm is simply Asking Tyler Cowen.  So here are, in no particular order, the most influential economists circa 2014:

1. Thomas Piketty

2. Paul Krugman

3. Joseph Stiglitz

4. Jeffrey Sachs

5. Amartya Sen

Basta.  Of course Yellen and Draghi are extremely influential as central bankers, but in the way Paul Volcker was, so that is a different list, albeit a more important one.

I would add several comments:

a. Piketty does very very well for marginal impact in 2014, but probably would/will do less well over broader time spans, even if you think his work will hold up.

b. Krugman is a clear winner for the United States.

c. Stiglitz, Sachs, and Sen have most of their influence outside of the United States.

d. Larry Summers is influential among economists and the intelligentsia and is one possible choice for number six, with Dani Rodrik as another, or maybe drum up the leading Islamic theorist on sukuk.  But Summers is not so influential with casual observers, which in some ways puts him as the opposite of Stiglitz (in his current incarnation).

e. There is no right-wing or center-right economist on the list.  See the EJW symposium on why there is no Milton Friedman today.  Krugman is probably the most politically conservative figure among the top five.

f. Behavioral economics as a whole is quite influential, but with no single dominant figure of influence.  In actuality Cass Sunstein (not formally an economist) and Richard Thaler might globally be #1 in the behavioral area, followed by Daniel Kahneman.


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