Coming up with a list of influential economists from the past is easy enough. John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and Alfred Marshall readily spring to mind. Coming up with a list of influential economists of recent memory is also easy enough: John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich von Hayek, Paul Samuelson, and Milton Friedman spring readily to mind. But coming up with the twenty most influential living economists poses more of a challenge.
Unlike in the past, economists now wield considerable political power. Is their influence to be measured in political terms, as in how widely their ideas are implemented in public policy and law? Is their influence to measured in originality of ideas and profundity of analysis? Is their influence to be measured in the degree to which they’ve transformed the discipline? As these questions suggest, no single measure of influence applies across the board. With these questions in the background, SuperScholar offers this list of its twenty most influential living economists.
Kenneth Arrow (b. 1921) is the preeminent living mathematical economist, bringing high-powered mathematics to bear on long-standing economic questions, especially in connection to general equilibrium.
More info: Kenneth Arrow Bio
Gary Becker (b. 1930) merged sociology and economics, showing how sociological factors influence economic behavior, while also laying particular stress on human capital.
More info: Gary Becker Bio
Barbara Bergmann (b. 1927) laid the foundations for much of contemporary feminist economics, especially regarding discrimination in the workplace.
More info: Barbara Bergmann
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto (b. 1941) has underscored the need for legal infrastructure, especially in protecting property, as the key to economic growth in developing countries.
More info: Hernando de Soto Bio
Ernst Fehr (b. 1951) has done fundamental work on human cooperation, especially in the area of altruistic punishment (punishment that offers no seeming economic incentive to the punisher and yet helps mould cooperation of the larger group).
More info: Ernst Fehr Bio
Francis Fukuyama (b. 1952) is a political economist who tracks how economic, technological, and social forces facilitate as well as undercut liberal democracy.
More info: Francis Fukuyama Bio
Alan Greenspan (b. 1926) instituted monetary policies during his nineteen years as head of the Federal Reserve that played a significant role in the economic crisis of 2008 and following.
More info: Alan Greenspan Bio
Daniel Kahneman (b. 1934) applied experimental psychology to economics to show how psychological factors can radically undermine classical conceptions of human economic agents as rational utility maximizers.
More info: Daniel Kahneman Bio
Lawrence Robert Klein
Lawrence Robert Klein (b. 1920), one of the 20th century’s key econometricians, was the first to make significant use of computer modeling in economic forecasting.
More info: Lawrence Robert Klein Bio
Arthur Laffer (b. 1940), one of the chief architects of Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, is best known for the “Laffer Curve,” which purports to demonstrate that decreasing tax rates may increase tax revenues.
More info: Arthur Laffer Bio
Robert Lucas Jr.
Robert Lucas Jr. (b. 1937) is best known for his work on the microeconomic basis for macroeconomics and on how rational expectations affect, and may mislead, economic agents.
More info: Robert Lucas Jr. Bio
Elinor Ostrom (b. 1933) has focused on the means of ensuring the continued use of common pool resources with an eye on preventing ecosystem collapse, a major concern in these times of ever increasing population.
More info: Elinor Ostrom Bio
Christopher Antoniou Pissarides
Christopher Antoniou Pissarides (b. 1948) is best known for his work on the relation between the labor market and the wider economy, focusing especially on the role of search frictions (obstacles to finding trading partners).
More info: Christopher Antoniou Pissarides
Jeffrey Sachs (b. 1954) has played a key role in helping developing and command economies (notably in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union) in transitioning to a free-market system.
More info: Jeffrey Sachs Bio
Amartya Sen (b. 1933), called the “Mother Teresa of Economics,” has humanized the once dismal science, focusing on practical economic ways of redressing poverty and thereby alleviating human suffering.
More info: Amartya Sen Bio
William Forsyth Sharpe
William Forsyth Sharpe (b. 1934) is a towering figure in financial economics whose work on capital asset pricing, and especially on the valuation of derivatives, has been seminal.
More info: William Forsyth Sharpe Bio
Mark Skousen (b. 1947) promotes libertarian economics to a wide audience through his academic career, writings, newsletter, and annual FreedomFest.
More info: Mark Skousen Bio
Thomas Sowell (b. 1930) is an academic economist and social critic whose popular and scholarly writings are widely read, arguing for free markets and economic growth.
More info: Thomas Sowell Bio
Joseph Stiglitz (b. 1943) has made fundamental contributions to the study of globalization, wage efficiency, and information asymmetry.
More info: Joseph Stiglitz Bio
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb (b. 1960) works in mathematical finance, where he introduced the concept of “black swan events” (rare events that can’t be fit within a known reference class of possibilities) to understand the current economic crisis.
More info: Nassim Nicholas Taleb Bio