American Principles Project - Who Is The Most Important Economist Of The 20th Century?

Dear Monetary Policy Observer,

Who is the most important 20th century economist?  According to Ralph Benko's latest Forbes  article (also picked up by Realclearmarkets) it's Jaques Rueff, the French economist who predicted the deflationary collapse of the gold-exchange standard, and pushed for more classical approach to currency.  The article goes over the contributions of Rueff (and several other economists) to the currency reform debate and how they apply to current efforts at reform.

We hope you find this material of interest.


Nicholas Arnold
American Principles In Action


Who Is The Most Important Economist Of The 20th Century?

Who is Jacques Rueff?

With Bastille Day just past, let us pause, briefly, to salute the greatest economist of the 20th century: French monetary statesman Jacques Rueff. The little-publicized Rueffian school (to which this writer belongs) quietly is working to gain influence in the corridors of power to revitalize Rueff’s great legacy, the classical gold standard.

Rueff’s leading intellectual protégé, at least in the United States, was American financier and philanthropist Lewis E. Lehrman (whose institute this writer professional serves).  Rueff dedicated his autobiography to Lehrman.  In the current issue of The Weekly Standard  editor William Kristol knowingly observes that “[T]he wisdom of thinkers from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter to Friedrich Hayek, and of statesmen from Alexander Hamilton to Ludwig Erhard to Jacques Rueff, remains available to us. And there are those who draw on those traditions and try to think anew (see, for instance, the articles by Irwin Stelzer and Lewis Lehrman in this issue).

Lehrman’s article, Romneyconomics, provides a comprehensive prescription for what ails America and the world.  In its scope and ambition this new publication resembles Jude Wanniski’s The Mundell-Laffer Hypothesis, published by Kristol’s father, Irving, in the Spring 1975 issue of The Public Interest.  The Mundell-Laffer Hypothesis dramatically shifted the discourse.  And changed the world.

The big brand names in center right economics, of course, are Smith and Friedman, Schumpeter and Mises, and, of course, the great Hayek. There are other greats, of course; these are the most iconic.  Who is Jacques Rueff?  Who has the temerity to claim that he belongs in the pantheon with Adam Smith?

On the occasion of the centenary of Rueff’s birth, in 1996, Lehrman was invited to address the Assemblée Nationale — the French Parliament.

“In what I now say to you, I draw from the speeches, the writings, and the letters of the greatest economist of the twentieth century.  … The ideas I set before you originate in the proven genius of an extraordinary teacher, a selfless servant of the French people, and a peerless citizen of the world — in the words of General de Gaulle — “une poète de finance.”

“I speak of Jacques Rueff.”

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