Correction: Daniel Kuehn is tempted to follow in George Stigler’s footsteps.

On a short blog post today, Daniel Kuehn, preparing to teach an undergraduate course in the history of economic thought, writes:

I wish I could completely skip Marx… does that make me a bad person? I suppose I shouldn’t. A few in the department would probably be miffed too if they found out.

First, Daniel, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Indeed, my respect for you just rose from what was already a reasonably high level.

Second, that reminds me of a true story. My friend Chris Jehn, while a Ph.D. student in the University of Chicago’s economics program in the late 1960s or early 1970s, took a course in the history of economic thought from the late George Stigler. Many people might have forgotten this, or perhaps never knew it because George was known mainly for his work in industrial organization and regulation, but the history of thought was one of George’s passions and it was an area in which published a lot in the 1940s and 1950s.

Back to the story. The first day of class, Stigler handed out a pretty comprehensive syllabus and started going over it in class. A student with a foreign voice raised his hand. “Yes,” said Stigler (and if I could do the voice in this blog, you would hear a reasonable imitation of Stigler’s distinctive voice.)

“Professor Stigler, I see that there is nothing on the syllabus by Karl Marx. Why is that?”

Stigler paused and then answered: “Marx was a lousy economist.”

Serious note for people considering teaching history of thought: Take a look at Mark Brady’s recommendations. He’s a master teacher of pretty much anything he teaches.