Nobel Laureate William Vickrey: Stockholm Seminar

By Harriss, C. Lowell | The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Nobel Laureate William Vickrey: Stockholm Seminar


Harriss, C. Lowell, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology


Economics requires a "big tent," one large enough to house many elements of wide diversity. The occupants will have an enormous range of high skills. William Vickrey used his exceptional abilities to work on many frontiers of the profession.

My life has included at least casual acquaintance with many, probably most, of the recipients of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. I have some, albeit sadly inadequate, familiarity with their work. The coverage is indeed extensive. One outstanding feature of Professor Vickrey's body of achievements is the number and diversity of subjects to which he made major contributions.

One thinks of social choice, counterspeculation, auctions, marginal utility measurement, welfare (human well-being--not the American usage of aid to the poor), taxation (income averaging, death duties, capital gains, progression), marginal cost pricing, public utility charges, airline overbooking, subway fares (revenue and non-revenue effects), urban affairs, use of land rents as a means of financing government, paying for city services, macroeconomics (inflation control, fuller employment), government debt--one's amazement and admiration keep rising. And there are more-always, I believe, rated highly by experts!

Vickrey's collection in Public Economics consists of essays on twenty-six subjects. There is theory in the abstract sense: An application to the realities of life, e.g., reducing the time (the human life) lost when idling in avoidable traffic congestion! For him, "knowledge for what?" was a challenge. He believed that economic knowledge could help human beings get more out of life. Improvements can be made in institutions, in the framework of economic, political, and social structures--not a sweeping restructuring in an engineering sense but change in specific elements of taxation, of transportation pricing, and so on! But he was not unwilling to propose change on a broad scale--as in his plan to prevent inflation.

He and I were friends and associates for sixty-one years, from graduate school days that began in 1935, through service in the U.S. Treasury during World War II, as colleagues on the faculty at Columbia University for almost half a century, as members of innumerable professional and civic associations, and as social friends. (I can still see him in August 1996, explaining to uncomprehending non-economist guests at my house how the growth of government debt could be--he believed would be--a good thing!)

In recent years he became increasingly articulate in condemning "our" toleration of unemployment. The "our" includes the community in general, government policy makers, and professional economists. His presidential address for the American Economic Association concentrated on (un)employment but, as he told me, "it went over as would a lead balloon." He was saying, in substance and probably in about these words, "the vast majority of us who have more or less satisfactory jobs or secure retirement should bestir ourselves to improve conditions for the less fortunate." He reminded us repeatedly of the waste of human idleness. A (lay, a week, a year, a life lost cannot be recovered. All of us know this. But, Professor Vickrey would say, "Economists should do more." (The epitome of normative economics!) Most of us can give reasons why things are not better. He knew them all, I believe. He was, really, very learned. He attended seminars, meetings, lectures, and conferences at Columbia and around the world. He was both sophisticated and simple--and far from satisfied with our achievements as a useful profession!

In the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, a large gap separates the general public's understanding of the way the economy works and the realities of economic processes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Nobel Laureate William Vickrey: Stockholm Seminar
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.