Weird Economics Dissertation of the Day

27 June 2011 at 3:44 pm 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

John Nash’s 1950 Princeton dissertation is odd, though brilliant. Khieu Samphan’s 1959 University of Paris dissertation, “Cambodia’s Economy and Problems of Industrialization,” is frightening, as it foreshadows the genocidal policies Samphan implemented as a top Khmer Rouge official in the 1970s. A NYT story excerpts key passages like this one, arguing that white-collar workers

add no value to the society from the perspective of the economy as a whole. They simply profit from a transfer of value issuing from other productive activities within society (agriculture, crafts, small industry). And the transfer of produce within society does not enlarge the total value of production obtained by society in any way. The distinction made by the Scottish economist Adam Smith between productive and unproductive work deserves to be carefully considered here.

This is far from saying, for example, that a civil servant or a soldier would be useless to society. However, the greater the reduction in numbers of individuals concerned with general social organization, the greater the number who can contribute to production and the faster the enrichment of the nation.

Presumably this was in Samphan’s mind when he had office workers marched at gunpoint to the fields, where many starved and where millions were later executed.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, History of Economic and Management Thought.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Marotta  |  27 June 2011 at 6:54 pm

    The crime was that his dissertation was accepted.

  • 2. gabrielrossman  |  27 June 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Wow, talk about performativity horror stories. At least Black-Scholes-Merton only caused a hedge fund to go bankrupt.

  • 3. srp  |  29 June 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Read many green theorists and you also get that Year Zero vibe.

  • 4. Links for July 1, 2011 « Marc F. Bellemare  |  1 July 2011 at 4:03 am

    […] What can your Ph.D. dissertation reveal about your future? […]

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