Tributes Paul A. Samuelson Lord Robbins Jeffrey T. Young History of Economics Society, USA    

Tribute: Paul A. Samuelson

Of Works and the Man I sing. But for a scholar like Samuel Hollander, to sing of his work is to praise him as a scholar. The immortality a thinker can have – and the only immortality worth having – lives on the value-added that we each contribute to the accumulating body of knowledge.

I have known most of the great economists since 1930. They have taught me. I have taught some of them. I could contrive to rank them in a strong transitive ordering. My motto has been...nay, my experience has been: “Chocolate is good. Good too is herring. How good then must be chocolate and herring.” The only thing better than a Hollander article is a Hollander book. Or do I have it vice versa?

When John Stuart Mill wished to analyze bilateral monopoly, he sought for the wildest spot in the Victorian world in order to discuss how much an explorer going to the bush would give for a musical snuff box to a veteran returning toward London civilization. The woods north of Minneapolis and south of Winnipeg, Mill thought to be the wildest place imaginable. (I may digress to add that those International Falls still are untamed wilderness.) But Toronto, our Toronto, is not that far away. Reading Sam’s 1995 autobiography, I was struck again by the remarkable Canadian tradition of importing English scientists and giving them their first chance to develop individual genius. Sir William Osler in medicine at McGill; Ernst Rutherford in physics, from New Zealand on to the home counties before moving to Montreal is another example. Add scientist Samuel Hollander, from LSE to Princeton to Toronto, is just one more instance of what I hope will be a continuing tradition.

Did you notice that I applied the noun “scientist” to this World Master of the History of Thought? That was no slip of my pen. To analyze cogently, fairly and correctly the structure of classical economic studies accords completely with my understanding of what constitutes science and scientific method.

Jacob Viner was my teacher. Viner was a great theorist; Viner was a great expert on international economics; Viner was a great historian of economic thought. Frank Knight was Chicago’s other great master when I was an undergraduate there in the early 1930s. Knight was a great theorist; Knight was a subtle philosopher of the social sciences; Knight also wrote sparingly on the history of economics. As a juvenile admirer, I scored Knight on Ricardo much the way I scored Viner on Ricardo. Now I note the difference between the learned sage and the hit-and-run amateur. Samuel Hollander is not your run of the mill dilettante. In his field he is a Viner not a Knight.

Because I am an absent-minded professor, I want right now to accomplish the task I am setting out for myself in today’s lecture. I am here to make a nomination for a new member to the venerable Hall of Fame for Doctrinal History. Along with Edwin Cannan, Frank Taussig, Edwin R. A. Seligman, Jacob Viner, Piero Sraffa, Lionel Robbins, and Joseph Schumpeter, and with another (secondary), Jacob Hollander, I want to nominate our Samuel for this immortal Hall of Fame. Since it is my Hall of Fame, nomination by me is equivalent to election. So consider it done.

The quadriad of masterpieces – books by Professor Hollander on Smith, Ricardo, the young Mill and Malthus – makes this choice a lay-down hand. If Dr. Hollander later gilds the lily with a masterpiece on Karl Marx, well that will only gild the lily.

My praise is perforce fulsome praise. All of you here in this audience realize that, for once, a commemorative speaker is spouting the unvarnished truth. Our Master has earned from us our just appreciation.
In concluding I want to strike a different note. The discipline of doctrinal analytic history lives on in a lean season. We are gathered as a band of beleaguered martyrs. Topological dynamics and stochastic matrices vie for research grants and these days elbow out the humanistic scholars.

When I think of Sam Hollander, I am reminded of Frank Sinatra. The audience goes wild when they hear Sinatra sing about doing things His Way. At the end of the day, Samuel Hollander can say to himself and say to the world

I kept the faith
I passed on the torch of learning and truth to a devoted band of student scholars.
We advanced the corpus of knowledge together and enriched the canon.

Therefore, I propose on behalf of us all the toast.

Hail Apollo!
Hail Solon!
Hail Hollander!

“Samuel Hollander, our master and co-worker”, from Reflections on the Classical Canon in Economics: Essays in Honour of Samuel Hollander, Evelyn L. Forget & Sandra Peart (Eds.), pp. 500-501.

Paul A. Samuelson (1915-2009) was the first economist to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.