Mark Blaug

I posted this note on the Societies for the History of Economics website when I heard the news that Mark Blaug had passed away on the 18th of November.

I would just like to say a few words about Mark. He apparently had a reputation for being hard and difficult but my own experience was of someone who was generous with his time and willing to help someone trying to think through difficult problems in the history of thought, and this was when I was merely a PhD candidate just beginning my work in the field. I had always been intimidated by his Economic Theory in Retrospect which even when I was at university, was the touchstone of what I thought it meant to be a true scholar. It set a standard I knew I could never hope to repeat. It is the only book from my university days that still sits on my shelf. I am very sorry to hear that he has passed away. Economics has lost one of its great historians.

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5 Responses to Mark Blaug

  1. Tom Valentine says:

    I still have my copy as well,Steve.But thanks for telling us.

  2. Leo Maglen says:

    I first met Mark when I was working in a very junior capacity in Claus Moser’s Higher Education Research Unit at LSE in the mid-sixties. This was one of the key hubs of the new field of the economics of education, and Mark was one of its stars. He became my mentor and I was fortunate to keep up this relationship well into the eighties at the University of London Institute of Education, where he held the chair of the economics of education. I regard him as one of the most brilliant people I have ever met, a true polymath, a genuine intellectual and academic in a way that is regrettably becoming increasingly rare. He was a humorous raconteur, at times a ferocious debater, but always a patient and considerate teacher. I remain hugely endebted to him. Vale Mark and thank you.

  3. Rafe says:

    He wrote a beautiful biographical memoire “Not only an economist” and there are chunks of it on line.

  4. Tim Curtin says:

    I met Mark a couple of times, and whilst sorry to hear of his death, his legacy includes two very dubious claims:

    1) That because allegedly primary education has a higher social [sic] rate of return than tertiary, primary alone was good enough (except for Mark). This revealed his TOTAL ignorance of calculus, because as I showed in a joint paper with Tony Nelson in Social Science & Medicine (see my website http://www.timcurtin.com for a download), this implied we should all always drive only in 1st gear, because that delivers the slowest deceleration from a standing start.

    However I do understand (from Napalm and our climate “scientists”) that calculus is no longer taught anywhere in Australia.

    2) Blaug’s second “contribution” to education economics was his claim that by his weird reckoning, the “social” benefits of higher education (HE) were always lower than the private. In ALL his work on this he ALWAYS ignored the higher INCREMENTAL (another word he could never grasp) taxes that accrue to governments from their spending on HE resulting from the higher earnings of those with HE relative to those (on average) without.

    Such INCREMENTAL tax receipts arise from a public service unique to HE graduates – and ironically, their HE in general makes them LESS likely to make demands on Centrelink, wholly state-funded medical services, and pensions.

    In other words, Blaug was a product of the blinkered Fabian view of the World c. 1948, from which we all still suffer in Australia, not least with the Blaug-instigated HECS prolumgated here by Bob Gregory and Bruce Chapman of our own dearly-beloved ANU.

    Get to the ANU tomorrow (5.30 at Acton at Crawford) to hear why Bruce like Blaug thinks only rich Thais should get their kids into university without said kids incurring loans and taxes a la HECS.

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