Friday, August 15, 2014

Political Intervention in Faculty Selection at the UIUC

This is a post about the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC)1. It is not about current events.

In the late 1940s, UIUC attempted to revamp their economics department. They hired many new economists, including, for example, Jacob Marschak and Franco Modigliani2. A bunch of economists previously at UIUC resisted these modernizing changes. They ended up calling for political support in the press, complaining about New Deal politics. And the department was purged, in a violation of academic freedom, of these new-fangled economists3.

I thought I knew about this incident originally from reading an Esther Merjam Sent article about why both rational expectations and bounded rationality could have emerged from research at Carnegie Mellon during the 1950s - maybe, "Sargent versus Simon: Bounded Rationality Unbound" (Cambridge Journal of Economics, V. 21, No. 3 (1996): pp. 323-338). Or maybe I am recalling Fred Lee's 2009 book, A History of Heterodox Economics: Challenging the mainstream in the twentieth century. Googling, I find a draft of a paper from Antonella Rancan, who I have not otherwise read.

  1. I have many positive impressions of UIUC. As I recall, the first graphical web browser was made there.
  2. Modigliani, in a 1944 paper, extended the Hicksian IS/LM interpretation of Keynesianism to include a labor market with sticky wages. This was a critical contribution towards a politically powerful approach that Post Keynesians quarrel with on theoretical grounds (while agreeing, mostly, on short term political implications).
  3. Modigliani ended up at Carnegie Mellon, which I guess was once not called that.

No comments: