Economist in the Pulpitn”Dosn ‘t thou ‘ear my ‘erses legs,nas they canters awaaynProputty, pioputty, proputty—nthat’s what I ‘ears ’em saay.nGeorge Stigler: The Intellectual andnthe Marketplace; Harvard UniversitynPress; Cambridge, MA.nGeorge Stigler: The Economist asnPreacher and Other Essays;nUniversity of Chicago Press;nChicago.nGeorge Stigler won the NobelnPrize for Economics in 1982,nthe second member of the ChicagonSchool to win that award in less than andecade (the other being Milton Friedmannin 1976). These prizes are highlynvisible evidence of the renewed respectabilitynof neoclassical, freemarketneconomics following the failuresnof central planning, regulation,nredistribution, and Keynesian fiscalntheory. Both Chicago winners arengreat communicators and gifted essayists.nThe central concern of these twoncollections of essays is the state ofneconomics as a scholarly profession.nWhile this may strike many as a concernnguaranteed to ratify Carlyle’s descriptionnof economics as a “dismalnscience,” nothing could be farthernfrom the truth. Stigler’s wit and stylenare as abundant as his knowledge.nThe Intellectual and the Marketplacencontains 18 essays constructed,nas Stigler states in the preface, ton”employ the weapon of mirth.” Thenessays are primarily directed at economicsnas practiced in academe.nWhether it is the teaching of economicsnor economics as an academic career,nthere is certainly no lack of targetsnfor satire in the Ivory Tower.n”The Conference Handbook” listsnall-purpose introductory remarks andncomments to be used when encounteringnthe research of others. Stigler suggestsnthat to save time, the cliches benstandardized and referred to by num-nWilliam Hawkins is professor ofneconomics at Radford University.n141 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREn—Alfred Tennysonnby William R. Hawkinsnber. Alternahng #4, “Theorizing isnnot fruitful at this stage, we need anseries of case studies” with #5, “Casenstudies are a clue, but no real progressncan be made until a model of thenprocess is constructed” would covernmost situations, though the purist cannsimply dismiss matters with #1,n”Adam Smith said that.” Unfortunately,ntoo many people rely on a halfdozennreferences to arcane statisticalnmethodologies to sound learned whilenrendering discussion sterile.nStigler’s humor is merciless, whethernthe subject is “Stigler’s First Law ofnSympathy” by which a casual attemptnis made to quantify the intangible orn”How to Pass Examinations in Economics”nwhere true-false questions becomenworse than 50-50 propositionsnthe more one thinks about them orn”The High Cost of Model Changes”nwhere he applies the Galbraithian criticismnof the auto industry to publishing:nhe proposes that to lower costs tonthe public, only material written beforen1900 be printed (reprinted) innsturdy bindings capable of enduringnfor generations. After all, he concludes,n”most new knowledge is false;nand the news got around in Athens.”nNot all the points behind the wryncomments are critical. In “MeagernMeans and Noble Ends” he arguesnthat since the basic economic assumptionnof scarcity applies to the supply ofnfirst-rate scholars, it is impossible fornany university to excel in every field.nUniversities must specialize in a fewnareas and settle for adequacy in thenrest. Students who want access to anwider variety of scholarship than anynsingle school can offer should havengreater freedom to combine programsnfrom different colleges in pursuit of andegree.nThe question of specialization figuresnin other essays. He is quite criticalnof the “encyclopedic texts” used innelementary economics courses. In twonsemesters everything from oligopolynnntheory to economic development,nlabor unions to fiscal policy, is thrownnat students who have no prior backgroundnin the field. The result isnusually confusion with too little timenspent on any topic to gain an understandingnof it. As anyone who hasntaught such courses knows, studentsnrespond to this barrage by memorizingnenough material to get through eachnexam, then promptly forgetting itnwhen the topic changes. Instead ofngiving students a sample of differentnareas, Stigler would concentrate onnprice theory (what real-world economistsnuse 99 percent of the time):ncompehtion and monopoly, consumernchoice and wage theory uncomplicatedneven by digressions into oligopolynor elasticity. The goal is for students tonunderstand the logic of economic activitynthrough repeated application ofnbasic principles to a variety of cases.nThe 18 essays in The Economist asnPreacher are more serious in tone andndisplay Stigler’s depth of scholarship innthe history of economic ideas. In thentitle essay, he states that “the main tasknof economics has always been to explainnreal economic phenomena inngeneral terms.” This invariably meansndealing with public policy.nIn talking to a non-economist,nthere is hardly anything inneconomics except policy for theneconomist to talk about. Thenlayman is unequipped tondiscuss with an economist thenproblems that concernnprofessional economists at anyntime. . . . The typical articlenin a professional journal isnunrelated to publicnpolicy—and often apparentiynunrelated to this world.nIn explaining economic phenomena,nit is assumed that individuals willnattempt to maximize their utility givennthe opportunities and constraints beforenthem. Economists should onlyndeal with “social policy and institutions,nnot individual behavior” to determinenhow changes in policy andninstitutional arrangements affect thenaggregate result of individual actions.nEconomists are merely efficiency ex-n