Veblen-Clark Lectures

The lectureship series was established in 1985 to honor the memory of the two most illustrious economists ever to be associated with Carleton College.

Thorstein Veblen, born in 1857, spent much of his youth on a farm in Nerstrand, Minnesota, just 10 miles south of Northfield. Veblen graduated from Carleton with a bachelor of arts degree in 1880. He went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University.

John Bates Clark, a young economist, joined Carleton’s faculty at the time of Veblen’s matriculation. Clark had been educated at Amherst College and at the University of Heidelberg. He was hired as both Professor of Political Economy and History and College Librarian. He remained at the college until 1881.

While Veblen and Clark had a mutual respect for each other’s intellect, they held dramatically divergent views regarding human behavior, social science, and economics. Each would leave Carleton to establish trails in economic theory which would be heavily followed but leading in markedly different directions.

After leaving Carleton, Clark went on to teaching positions at Smith College, Amherst College, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. He was one of the pioneers of the use of marginal analysis to understand issues of resource allocation and income distribution. Among his most important contributions are The Philosophy of Wealth (1886) and The Distribution of Wealth (1899). He is considered to be one of the true founders of modern mainstream economics. The John Bates Clark medal is the highest honor awarded by the American Economics Association.

Veblen, on the other hand, forcefully challenged the foundations of mainstream economic theory. After experiencing some difficulty in landing a teaching position, Veblen’s brilliance finally overcame a variety of quirky personality traits. He obtained teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Stanford, and the University of Missouri. His most influential work is The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), in which fundamental economic paradigms are called into question.

The Veblen-Clark Lectureship brings an outstanding scholar in economics to Carleton each year for a public lecture and meetings with students and faculty. The lectureship presumes no ideological bias, but celebrates the variety of viewpoints and paradigms demonstrated by Veblen and Clark that have historically enriched the study of economics at Carleton.

The lectureship is made possible, in part, by the Ada Harrison Fund. The fund was established to honor Professor Ada Harrison, who taught in the economics department for many years and exemplified the department’s continuing commitment to teaching excellence.

Previous Veblen-Clark Lecturers

2016 Martha Paas, Carleton College

2015 Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University

2013 Ben Broadbent, Bank of England, Monetary Policy Committee

2012 Gary Libecap, University of California at Santa Barbara

2011 Gavin Wright, Stanford University

2010 Margaret Simms, '67, Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute

2009 Gregory Clark, University of California at Davis

2008 Thomas Schelling, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government

2007 Benjamin M. Friedman, Harvard University

2005 Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University

2004 Charles R. Plott, California Institute of Technology

2003 Robert E. Lucas Jr., University of Chicago

2002 Robert Fogel, University of Chicago

2001 Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University

2000 Anne O. Krueger, Stanford University

1999 Lester Thurow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1998 Gavin Wright, Stanford University

1997 Douglass C. North, Washington University

1996 Harry Markowitz, University of California at San Diego

1996 Pu Shan, Chinese Society of World Economy

1994 Robert E. Will, Carleton College

1993 Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University

1992 James Tobin, Yale University

1991 Robert Solow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1990 Gary Becker, University of Chicago

1989 George Stigler, University of Chicago

1988 Michael Piore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1986 Roger Noll, Stanford University

1985 Robert Clower, University of California Los Angeles