Before They Were Famous
| Peter Klein |
Joe Morgenstern’s recent rant about the horrible year in movies included a sidebar (scroll down) about cinema classics that appeared ordinary when they came out. Casablanca, for example, was considered just another patriotic war movie, which the studios were putting out by the dozen, and a syrupy one at that.
The sidebar reminded me of Josh Gans and George Shepherd’s essay on classic social-science papers that struggled to find a publisher. Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons” was rejected by the AER, JPE, and REStat before QJE finally picked it up in 1970. Williamson’s manuscript for Markets and Hierarchies was rejected by Brookings. Robert Lucas’s 1972 paper, “Expectations and the Neutrality of Money” was rejected by the AER on the grounds that it was too mathematical. William Sharpe’s 1964 paper that introduced the capital asset pricing model was initially rejected by the Journal of Finance because, wrote the editor, the assumption that all investors make the same predictions was “preposterous.”
Jim March, as often, gets the best line: “I recall on one occasion a referee filing a two paragraph commentary on a paper I co-authored suggesting (in the first paragraph) that the key theorem involved was trivially obvious and (in the second) that it was wrong. I thought on the whole that he ought to