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Albert Hirschman, the best economist not to win a Nobel, passes

Of all the books I read in Grad School, perhaps the one I treasure the most is Exit, Voice and Loyalty (1970) by Albert Hirschman. We anchored our current project on that book. Every so often we explain the acronym HHI and Hirschman’s name comes up again. It is said that a 700 page biography will be out next year. Look forward to it.

In its review, the Economist describes him as a great lateral thinker among other things.

The Economist claims to engage in a “severe contest” with “an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. Mr Hirschman was an eloquent ally. In “The Rhetoric of Reaction” he wrote that purveyors of “timid ignorance” rely on three types of argument: jeopardy (reforms will cost a lot and endanger previous gains); perversity (reforms will harm the people they are intended to help); and futility (problems are so huge that nothing can be done about them). That certainly describes the current debates about global warming, illegal drugs and countless other topics. With luck, Mr Hirschman’s exit will not silence his voice.

The New York Times describes him as an optimistic economist. I say thank you.

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