By Kenneth G. Elzinga,
Presidential Address delivered at the 61st meeting of the Southern Economic Association, Nashville, Tennesse, November 26, 1991.
In 1948, Americans in great numbers were reading Dwight D. Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe and Dale Carnegies's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Atop the best-seller list in fiction were two totally different reading experiences: The Big Fisherman by Llyord Douglas and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead. That year as well Kinsey's Sexual Behavior of the Human Male approached the top of the best-seller list.
Also in 1948, unmentioned by Pubishers Weekly, a textbook authored by a young economist at MIT was published at a suggest retail price of $4.50. The book, entitled Economics, came to outsell Eisenhauer and Mailer on war, Carnegie on worrying, Douglas on the Apostle Peter, and even Kinsey on sex. The eleven principles of economics textbooks by Paul A. Samuelson encompass over three publishing decades, 9000 pages of printed text, and a combined weight of 35 pounds for a complete set. [n1] The book has been translated into over 30 foreign languages.
Samuelson's eleven principles are an imposing pubishing accomplishment, all the more so against the backdrop of the author's other contributions to the discipline.[n2] It is as if someone won Wimbledon and also was the game's most popular sportswriterㅡand then kept winning Wimbledon and writing about tennis for over forty years.
II. The Birth of the Book
III. Distinctiveness of the First Edition
There were three innovations in the first edition of ^Economics^: new principles; new emphases; and new organizatin.
- The new principles were Keynsian.
- The new emphases were on macroeconomics and the problems of maintaining full employment.
- The new organization was to begin the text with macroeconomics.
n2. For a summary of Samuelson's contribution of economic analysis, see[:]
- Brown and Solow
- and Samuelson
- to contain Keynsian macroeconomic theory,
- to emphasize the economic problem of maintaining full employment and controlling the business cycle,
- and to treat macroeconomics ahead of microeconomics. (...)
(...) In 1947-48, this was pathbreaking stuff for a principles text. But if Tarshis got there first, it is legitimate to inquire: why is there not, instead, a "Tarshis legend" in textbook publishing? The brief answer is: Samuelson out-Keynsianized Tarshis.
Samuelson's first edition uses more graphs to teach the new macroeconomic material. (...)
Samuelson not only offered more graphs to those adopting his textbook, but he offered two that were not in ^The Genera Theory^ nor in Tarshis text: the Keynsian cross and the Circular Flow. The circular flow diagram has its roots in Frank Knight's wheel of wealth, and Samuelson knew of it from his undergraduate days at the University of Chicago. It became an important feature in the new text.[n4]
The Keynsian cross Samuelson invented.[n5] Its absence in the Tarshis text left that book with all the Keynsian apparatus of MPC, MPS, and the Investment function, but no unifying diagram.
New theories alone did not differentiate the macro half of Samuelson's ^Economics^. Llyord Mints, Samuelson's Money and Banking teacher at the University of Chicago, had taught him the mechanics of bank money expansion as developed by Iowa Chester Philips. Samuelson placed this material in his text to promote economics as a science. It was an hit in the classroom, at least with teachers, and aided the success of the book.[n6]
To further distinguish his textbook, Samuelson made microeconomic theory as a side dish.[n7] A student reading the first edition did not encounter microeconomic theory unti page 447 of the book's 622 pages. Material on demand and supply and its applications, elasticity, the theory of consumer demand, the models of perfect and imperfect competition, the theory of the firm, and marginal productivity theory occupy only 90 pages, less than 15 percent of the book.[n8]
Political Reactions To The First Edition
The first editions of both the Samuelson and Tarshis texts met hostile reaction from the political right. (...) Both were condemned for their alleged aversion to business, their congeniality to income redistribution, and their openness to Keynsian policies.[n9]