Thought for the Week – 09.12.19

“Good questions outrank easy answers”

PAUL SAMUELSON (1915-2009)

Paul Anthony Samuelson (May 15, 1915 – December 13, 2009) was an American economist. The first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, the Swedish Royal Academies stated, when awarding the prize in 1970, that he “has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory”. Economic historian Randall E. Parker has called him the “Father of Modern Economics”, and The New York Times considered him to be the “foremost academic economist of the 20th century”.

Samuelson was likely the most influential economist of the later 20th century. In 1996, when he was awarded the National Medal of Science, considered to be America’s top science-honour, President Bill Clinton commended Samuelson for his “fundamental contributions to economic science” for over 60 years. Samuelson considered mathematics to be the “natural language” for economists and contributed significantly to the mathematical foundations of economics with his book Foundations of Economic Analysis. He was author of the best-selling economics textbook of all time: Economics: An Introductory Analysis, first published in 1948. It was the second American textbook that attempted to explain the principles of Keynesian economics. It is now in its 19th edition, having sold nearly 4 million copies in 40 languages, including Russian, French, Greek, Slovak, Chinese, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, Czech, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Indonesian, Swedish, Croatian, Dutch, Turkish, Hebrew, Italian, and Arabic. James Poterba, former head of MIT’s Department of Economics, noted that by his book, Samuelson “leaves an immense legacy, as a researcher and a teacher, as one of the giants on whose shoulders every contemporary economist stands”

He entered the University of Chicago at age 16, during the depths of the Great Depression, and received his PhD in economics from Harvard. After graduating, he became an assistant professor of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when he was 25 years of age and a full professor at age 32. In 1966, he was named Institute Professor, MIT’s highest faculty honor.[4] He spent his career at MIT where he was instrumental in turning its Department of Economics into a world-renowned institution by attracting other noted economists to join the faculty, including Robert M. Solow, Franco Modigliani, Robert C. Merton, Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Paul Krugman, all of whom went on to win Nobel Prizes.

He served as an adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and was a consultant to the United States Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Samuelson wrote a weekly column for Newsweek magazine along with Chicago School economist Milton Friedman, where they represented opposing sides: Samuelson, as a self described “Cafeteria Keynesian”, claimed taking the Keynesian perspective but only accepting what he felt was good in it. By contrast, Friedman represented the monetarist perspective. Together with Henry Wallich, their 1967 columns earned the magazine a Gerald Loeb Special Award in 1968.

Thought for the Week – 02.12.19

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting”

EDMUND BURKE (1729-1797)

Edmund Burke (1729 – 9 July 1797) was an Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher. Born in Dublin, Burke served as a member of parliament (MP) between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons with the Whig Party after moving to London in 1750.

Burke was a proponent of underpinning virtues with manners in society and of the importance of religious institutions for the moral stability and good of the state. These views were expressed in his A Vindication of Natural Society. He criticised British treatment of the American colonies, including through its taxation policies. Burke also supported the rights of the colonists to resist metropolitan authority, although he opposed the attempt to achieve independence. He is remembered for his support for Catholic emancipation, the impeachment of Warren Hastings from the East India Company and for his staunch opposition to the French Revolution.

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke asserted that the revolution was destroying the fabric of good society and traditional institutions of state and society and condemned the persecution of the Catholic Church that resulted from it. This led to his becoming the leading figure within the conservative faction of the Whig Party which he dubbed the Old Whigs as opposed to the pro-French Revolution New Whigs led by Charles James Fox.

In the 19th century, Burke was praised by both conservatives and liberals. Subsequently in the 20th century, he became widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.


Thought for the Week – 25.11.19

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”

MALCOLM X (1925-1965)

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), better known as Malcolm X, was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement. He is best known for his controversial advocacy for the rights of black citizens; some consider him a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans, while others accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, he spent his teenage years living in a series of foster homes following his father’s death and his mother’s hospitalisation. Little engaged in several illicit activities, and was eventually sentenced to ten years in prison in 1946 for larceny and breaking and entering. In prison, he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and changed his name to Malcolm X because, he later wrote, Little was the name that “the white slave-master … had imposed upon [his] paternal forebears”. After being paroled in 1952, he quickly became one of the organisation’s most influential leaders.

During the civil rights movement, Malcolm X served as the public face of the controversial group for a dozen years, where he advocated for black supremacy, the separation of black and white Americans, and rejected the notion of the civil rights movement for its emphasis on racial integration. He also expressed pride in some of the social achievements he made with the Nation, particularly its free drug rehabilitation program. In the 1950s, Malcolm X endured surveillance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the Nation’s supposed links to Communism.

In the 1960s, Malcolm X began to grow disillusioned with the Nation of Islam, and in particular, with its leader Elijah Muhammad. Expressing many regrets about his time with them, which he had come to regard as largely wasted, he instead embraced Sunni Islam. Malcolm X then began to advocate for racial integration and disavowed racism after completing Hajj, whereby he also became known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. After a brief period of travel across Africa, he notably repudiated the NOI, and founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. (MMI) and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) to emphasize Pan-Africanism.

Throughout 1964, his conflict with the NOI intensified, and on February 21, 1965, he was assassinated by three of its members. Malcolm X Day is celebrated in various cities and countries worldwide, and hundreds of streets and schools in the U.S. are named in his honour.

Thought for the Week – 18.11.19

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”


Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSA FRSE (January 6, 1705– April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organisations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia’s first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.

Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, “In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.” To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”

Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he authored under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”. After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.

He pioneered and was first president of Academy and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania. He organised and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.

He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national communications network. During the revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the late 1750s, he began arguing against slavery and became an abolitionist.

His life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honoured more than two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.