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My short piece on Solow and his relation to the Review of Keynesian Economics

Summary:
(1924-2023)Robert Solow, who was a member of the editorial board of the Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE), died in December 2023. Solow holds a special place in the history of macroeconomics, and he was a strong supporter of the ROKE project. In this brief note I want to honor Solow’s contribution to economics and to place on record his contribution to ROKE.Histories of macroeconomics tend to emphasize the disputes between Keynesians and Monetarists, at least up to the 1970s. Those disputes very often pitted Milton Friedman against either Paul Samuelson, with whom he alternated in a famous Newsweek column, or James Tobin who was, perhaps, the most prominent of Friedman’s opponents when the Journal of Political Economy edited a debate with Friedman’s critics. In the broader cultural

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My short piece on Solow and his relation to the Review of Keynesian Economics
(1924-2023)

Robert Solow, who was a member of the editorial board of the Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE), died in December 2023. Solow holds a special place in the history of macroeconomics, and he was a strong supporter of the ROKE project. In this brief note I want to honor Solow’s contribution to economics and to place on record his contribution to ROKE.

Histories of macroeconomics tend to emphasize the disputes between Keynesians and Monetarists, at least up to the 1970s. Those disputes very often pitted Milton Friedman against either Paul Samuelson, with whom he alternated in a famous Newsweek column, or James Tobin who was, perhaps, the most prominent of Friedman’s opponents when the Journal of Political Economy edited a debate with Friedman’s critics. In the broader cultural wars, Friedman was often pitted against John Kenneth Galbraith, and his Free to Choose series was seen as a response to the latter’s BBC series The Age of Uncertainty. Solow appears, if at all, as Samuelson’s co-author of a paper on anti-inflation policy (Samuelson and Solow 1960), which is widely viewed as introducing the Phillips curve to the American economics profession.

Yet Solow is, in many ways, the central figure of ‘American’ Keynesianism, and he was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Economics. His work was central to the building of what Samuelson referred to as the Neoclassical Synthesis, which was dominant during the post-war era up to the 1970s. This synthesis combined microeconomic competitive general equilibrium theory, Keynesian macroeconomics, and Solow’s (1956) Neoclassical growth theory. It gave short-run space for Keynesian policy effectiveness but asserted a long-run belief in market forces and Say’s Law, which Solow defended in his growth model and in the Cambridge debates with more heterodox Keynesians. Additionally, Solow contributed decisively to the development of what eventually would be called New Keynesian Economics, with the development of the efficiency wage model in the late 1970s. He lived long enough to see fiscal policy rehabilitated after the Great Recession of 2007–2009, and to see what many view as the return of Keynesian Economics.

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Matias Vernengo
Econ Prof at @BucknellU Co-editor of ROKE & Co-Editor in Chief of the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

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