Brown, Balls and the rest

I’ve finished the excellent Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations by David Warsh and have a small anecdote to add to his full, highly readable intellectual history of modern growth theory.

Warsh’s book centers around an influential paper by economist Paul Romer, Endogenous Technological Change. British readers will probably recall the 1995 incident when Labour’s Gordon Brown, then shadow chancellor, gave a speech which stated his adherence to “post neo-classical endogenous growth theory”. His then-aide, Ed Balls, had probably written the speech. I suspect the cerebral Brown knew what it meant, but it certainly baffled many of his listeners. Tory grandee Michael Heseltine had a clever riposte: “That’s not Brown’s. That’s Balls’.” (As Warsh makes clear, Brown’s commitment to endogenous growth theory was wise and well ahead of the curve of most policymakers.)

Incidentally, I kvetched the other day about the lack of full footnotes and bibliography in the book. Warsh explains why and provides a brief, helpful list of further reading.

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