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How to Determine History’s Greatest Economist

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I recently finished teaching an economics class at Chapman University in California, where I have been appointed a Presidential Fellow for 2014. (I’ll be returning to deliver a public lecture on April 16.)

Above is a photo of the 34 students in my class and me. Each of us is holding an American eagle silver dollar as a keepsake (the silver dollar is a symbol of sound money and liberty) in front of the Adam Smith statue at Chapman University in Orange County, Calif.

The course was called “Modern Political Economy: Who is Winning the Battle of Ideas?” In the final exam, I asked each student to choose his or her favorite economist. Here was the breakdown:

Adam Smith — 16
Milton Friedman — 4
J. B. Say — 3
Karl Marx — 3
John Maynard Keynes — 2
F. A. Hayek — 1
Carl Menger — 1
John Stuart Mill — 1
Joseph Schumpeter — 1
Muhammad Yunus — 1
Robert Shiller — 1
Mark Skousen — 1 (naturally this student got an A+!)

I was not surprised that Adam Smith was far and away the most popular choice, since the Scottish economist is the heroic figure in my textbook “The Making of Modern Economics.”

His “system of natural liberty” consists of three pillars: economic freedom, competitive markets and justice (the rule of law). Studies have shown that nations that adopt these three governing principles have the highest level of prosperity. See www.freetheworld.com.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to southern California in January and look forward to coming back. Chapman University President Jim Doti and his wife Lynne were wonderful hosts and have helped put Chapman on the map (www.chapman.edu). Other Presidential Fellows include astrophysicist Paul Davies and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith also is teaching at Chapman.

You Blew It! Should We Adopt a National Holiday for Opening Day Baseball?

There are all kinds of demands for national holidays, but one of the dumbest lately is being circulated by Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and supported by Budweiser. If supporters get 100,000 signatures, the Obama administration must consider it.

So Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (a play on the old Jimmy Stuart movie).

This is a quixotic errand if I ever heard one. First of all, opening day games are always full around the ballparks, so there’s no reason to demand that people stay home.

Second, baseball isn’t even the nation’s pastime anymore — it has been surpassed by professional and college football and basketball.

Incidentally, I saw a map of the 50 states and found that in the vast majority, the highest-paid state employees are the state universities’ football coaches!

My solution? Just require the opening day of baseball to be on a Sunday. Just like the Super Bowl, the opening day of baseball automatically would be on a holiday.

As far as national holidays are concerned, I am surprised that the first Tuesday of November isn’t a national holiday to go the polls. But then again if election day were a holiday, maybe even fewer citizens would vote — they’d rather go on vacation.

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my column from last week that explains why France’s President François Hollande endorsed Say’s law. I also invite you to share your thoughts below.

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About Mark Skousen

Mark Skousen, Ph. D., is the editor of the monthly investment newsletter Forecasts & Strategies, as well as three weekly trading services—High-Income Alert, Five Star Trader, and Fast Money Alert. He is also a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books. He earned his Ph. D. in monetary economics at George Washington University in 1977. He has taught economics and finance at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Grantham University, Barnard College, Mercy College, Rollins College, and is a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He also has been a consultant to IBM, Hutchinson Technology, and other Fortune 500 companies. For more information about Mark’s services, go to http://www.markskousen.com/

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  • DanMR

    I agree with choice of Adam Smith as a historical choice, but if given a choice in the current age I would, undoubtedly choose Lawrence Kudlow. His view is extremely consistent with Smith’s in allowing people to have the desired freedom to make their own choices. He feels given this freedom Americans, and other nations which also choose this style, would flourish as we did in the 80’s. Freedom is the key with as little government interference as possible.

  • kickk

    How about a vote for Ludwig von Mises?


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