Henderson on Weidenbaum
By David Henderson
My first article of 2015 is out. It’s “A Feel for Economics: Murray Weidenbaum, 1927-2014,” Regulation, Winter 2014-15.
Some highlights follow.
The opening paragraph:
I first met Murray Weidenbaum at the 1974 American Economics Association meetings in San Francisco. I was interviewing for a position as assistant professor, and Murray was part of the Washington University contingent that was on the buyers’ side. At the time, I was earning my Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was working on a dissertation on the economics of coal mine safety legislation. I did not wow most of the interviewers, but I still remember Murray’s raised eyebrow when he found out two things about my dissertation. First, it was on regulation. Second, I had already learned enough to conclude, tentatively, that the regulations did not do much for safety but did raise costs, especially for small, non-union mines. I thought that the raised eyebrow, along with the little twinkle in his eye, was a sign that he liked what he had heard. As I got to know him in the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, I learned that my instincts about that twinkle were right.
Although he was Jewish, his family celebrated Christmas, and he and his wife encouraged their son and two daughters to believe in Santa Claus. In time, his older daughter reached the age when she began to doubt Santa Claus’s existence and suspected that her parents were the real source of Christmas gifts. But on Christmas morning, she opened a gift and found an expensive item that she had wanted. “There must be a Santa Claus,” she said, excitedly. “Dad’s too cheap to spend that much money.” Murray delighted in telling that story.
More seriously, I also tell of the attack on him in The Village Voice in 1979 and my defense of him back then from that attack. It was an exciting time to be an economist. I think the high-water mark of economists’, including many mainstream economists’, critique of intrusive government was in about 1979. We might be at a new peak today, but, if so, the new peak is less tall than the one in 1979.
Here’s my earlier post on Murray.