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Making Things Technical: Paul Samuelson at MIT
History of Political Economy
This article examines how Samuelson defined his own role as an economist as a technical expert, who walked what he called the "middle of the road" to-seemingly-stay out of the realm of politics. As point of entry I discuss the highly tempting offers made by Theodore M. Schultz in the 1940s to come over to Chicago, which Schultz persistently repeated over three years and despite strong Chicago faculty resistance. A contrast between Schultz's own experiences as an economic expert at Iowa State, Samuelson's work as an external consultant for the National Resources Planning Board during the Second World War, and the firm support of the MIT administration for Samuelson's research serves to pinpoint the meaning of being technical for Samuelson, and the relation of the technical economic expert to the realm of politics.
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