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.