Top Ten Economists

A top ten list of economists always depends on criteria. So here I use a combination of my beliefs, their credentials and the impact they had on economic thought:

10. Murray Rothbard

The founder of anarcho-capitalism and inspiration to presidential candidate Ron Paul formulated much of the Austrian theory especially with regards to the Great Depression and the American experience.

9. Paul Samuelson

There is probably no one more responsible for the rise of econometrics and turning economics into a mathematical science. Whether or not that is a good thing, I’ll leave to the reader, but his contribution needs to be noted nonetheless.

8. Henry Hazlitt

The man who wrote the best introduction to economics ever written as well as the best critique of Keynesian economics needs a place on this list.

7. John Maynard Keynes

Regardless of Hazlitt’s critique, Keynes has had an undeniable impact on economic thought and thereby deserves a place on this list.

6. Thomas Sowell

This guy seems to publish a book every year and yet maintain an extremely high level of quality. There are few better at debunking economic myths and explaining economics then professor Sowell.

5. Ludwig von Mises

The leader of the Austrian school wrote seminal critiques of fascism, socialism and the mixed economy, and laid down the framework for the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

4. Richard Cantillon

While Adam Smith is known as the founder of economics, Richard Cantillon was explaining how a market economy worked 5o years earlier.

3. Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman’s reputation took off when he predicted the stagflation of the 1970′s, then he won the 1976 Nobel Prize. His work inspired the “Reagan Revolution” (although very little of what he actually wanted was enacted). One of the most influential economists of the 20th century.

2. F. A. Hayek

While his political thought has probably been more influential (think The Road to Serfdom) his economic work should not be overlooked, after all, he won the 1974 Nobel Prize for his work on the Austrian theory of the Business Cycle.

1. Adam Smith

Perhaps his reputation of the “founder of modern economics” is hyperbole, but his work laid the groundwork for the fall of mercantilism and the rise of capitalism in the West which helped bring on the Industrial Revolution and the unparalleled prosperity we have today.


Honorable Mentions:

Joseph Schumpeter

A great economist, who’s work on capitalism, socialism, democracy and corporatism is truly thought provoking.

Peter Bauer

The man who stood up to the statists on third world development. Today he’s finally starting to be recognized for his prescience.

Dean Baker

A Keynesian economist who’s work on corporate welfare and intellectual property is well worth a look.

David Ricardo

Another one of the great 18th century economists who helped laid the intellectual frameworks for market economics.

Robert Higgs

Higgs has devastated the myth that World War II got the United States out of the Depression and has done much to expose the corruption behind the military-industrial complex.

Karl Marx

While I think his work has been thoroughly debunked by both theory and history, he had an enormous and continuing effect on economic thought.

Henry George

Henry George is an interesting figure who basically took some socialism and capitalism and mixed them together, but without having them overlap. In George’s thought, all land should be owned in common, but products of labor should be owned privately. He provides a unique and thought-provoking way to look at economics.

Frank Knight

The influential founder of the Chicago school of economics.

John Kenneth Galbraith

One of the most famous Keynesian economists of the 20th century.

Anna Schwartz

Milton Friedman’s partner on the Monetary History of the United States. A great economist in her own right as well.

Jean-Baptise Say

Another great economist from the good, old days who formulated “Say’s law.”

Joseph Stiglitz

One of the most influential Keynesians of today who gained a reputation for his merited criticisms of the IMF, WTO and World Bank.

Niall Ferguson

A fantastic economic historian who, by the way, makes fantastic documentaries.


Photo Credit: Dirt Diggers Digest


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  • DCT

    I would nominate James M. Buchanan – brilliant thinker and defender of liberty and Nobel Prize-winning economist. Know for his work on Public Choice Theory.

    I would like to see a list of upcoming top 10 economists. If you do consider Peter Boettke, who is the Deputy Director of the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, and a professor in the economics department at George Mason University.

  • Eleutheros

    Frédéric Bastiat doesn’t even get a mention? He certainly influenced a great deal of names on that list.

  • el jefe

    karl marx has not been debunked by “history” or “theory.” his position has not yet had a chance to materialize. furthermore, if marx were not an essential economist (though a philosopher, by training), then why is marx still assigned in economics departments, as essential reading? socialism aside, marx was able to deconstruct capitalism to a point where the previous (and commercial, as opposed to industrial) political economists never envisioned. whether or not one agrees with marx’s methodology, his economic research is, in fact, correct in outlining the production process and the negative consequences that will occur (boom-bust; overproduction, leading to economic crisis, and underproduction, leading to an outcome reflective of overproduction). of course, this blog likely rejects any logical historical perspective, and instead insinuates capitalism as some sort of “eternal” and “universal” order of things. perhaps the greatest fallacy of all: capitalism as “human nature” (an example of the contradicting formal rationality that permeates throughout, and tortures the individuals who reside in, this society).

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