The making of good economists: reviewing some consequences of Colin Clark’s life and practice
What makes a good economist has been a question addressed by economists on various occasions. Notable answers in the past have come from John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall and Maynard Keynes. More negatively, contemporary Australian debate on economic rationalism has focused on what makes bad economists. The topic is therefore timely. Colin Clark was undoubtedly a very good economist. Heinz Arndt has gone much further and ‘wonders why his name is not universally recognised as among the half-dozen great economists of the twentieth century’ (Arndt 1979: 123). Clark’s important contributions meriting this distinction arise from his innovative research on national income estimates, including the invention of the concept of Gross National Product, and his equally pioneering work on the theory of economic growth. His promotion of both Verdoorn’s and Aukrust’s laws in this work was well ahead of its time in discussions of growth and structural change. Colin Clark has, of course, a brief entry in the first edition of Who’s Who in Economics (Blaug and Sturges 1983: 70). However, he only rated a small one in the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (Arndt 1987: 428) when compared to those who are invariably included among the half-dozen great economists in the twentieth century, that is, Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter.