Clark smack down

Ouch. David Warsh doesn’t like Clark’s Farewell to Alms, “There were a lot of things I would have rather done last week than read A Farewell to Alms.”

There are two things about A Farewell to Alms that are within my competence to quickly assess. One has to do with scholarly bad manners. The other concerns a policy prescription so central to the author’s intention that apparently it inspired the title of the book… First… Clark’s book is, to put it frankly, self-aggrandizing to the point of being intellectually dishonest… it was Galor and and Omer Moav, of Hebrew University, who wrote the 2002 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, “Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth”… Five years and one empirical journal article later, Clark’s book winds up in the highly-regarded science section of The New York Times. Meanwhile, the Thomson Web of Science last spring described Galor’s topic as an “emerging research front”… But it is the policy prescriptions that Clark says flow from his work that are the most disturbing aspect of A Farewell to Alms… The implicit proposition … is that we should stop giving money to the poor… From a scholar to come blinking out of the library where he has been studying English wills in the age of Shakespeare, this is simply offensive.

4 thoughts on “Clark smack down”

  1. I actually like the Galor, Moav and Weil stuff better but the very obvious reason why FTA wound up in the NYT and “Galor’s topic” is “an “emerging research front”” is because FTA is written for the public while Galor’s stuff is all kinds of fancy and technical OLG modellin’ not suitable for a general audience. So I’m not sure that’s a legitimate quibble… hmmm.

  2. Warsh’s whole “bad manners” criticism is weird for this reason. Popularizers aren’t expected to have many footnotes and citations.

    Also, re: “…one empirical journal article later…” Clark uses the will evidence in one chapter. Most of the rest of the book is discrediting other explanations for emerging from the trap. Actually, the way he finds and uses evidence to do this is the best part of the book (and represents the bulk of his publications).

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