アメリカ経済学会 (American Economic Association)

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Seal of the American Economic Association

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The American Economic Association (AEA), emerged through the almost single-handed efforts of Richard T. Ely in 1885. To some extent, it emerged out of the methodenstreit and power struggle between Richard T. Ely and Simon Newcomb at Johns Hopkins in the 1880s. As a result of the unceasing harangues by Simon Newcomb, the attention-hungry Johns Hopkins administration began to doubt Ely's professional standing in contemporary economics. Thus, Ely not only hoped the AEA would galvanize the fledling American Institutionalist school, but also used it to prove his credentials to the administration.

If its birth was the outcome of the Newcomb-Ely conflict, its existence was not really a continuation of that conflict. Its early members divided over whether to conceive of it as a regular professional organization with broad membership or as an exclusively Institutionalist nest. Some even garnered visions of it becoming a applied and social policy body, an American version of Schmoller's Verein. However, Ely himself set the AEA on the professionalist track -- inviting General Francis Amasa Walker as the first President of AEA, and installing himself as secretary. Thus, in spite of continued internal grumblings and dissension, Ely's AEA was and has remained, to a large extent, a broad professional organization as opposed to a more partisan association.

If Institutionalists were overrepresented in its early membership rolls, it was because American marginalists were reluctant to join - either because they were suspicious of the AEA or were afraid their participation in it would be tantamount to acknowledging Institutionalists as professional equals in economics. Indeed, the tables were soon turned and it was the Institutionalists who found themselves in a minority. It was only in 1925, and after some energetic lobbying efforts by Paul H. Douglas, that the AEA finally got around to offering Thorstein Veblen the presidency of the AEA - which he, of course, refused with pleasure.

Things have gone only a bit smoother since then. Three distinct accusations of bias have been thrown against the AEA that are worth mentioning for historical interest. Firstly is in the criteria for accepting articles for its journal, the American Economic Review - long considered to among the most prestigious in the profession. In its early years, the American Economic Review was (and remains) aimed at a relatively wide audience and thus articles which were too technical or mathematical rarely found their way into the AER. However, to a good extent, this anti-technical bias was also found in contemporary American journals such as Harvard's Quarterly Journal of Economics and Chicago's Journal of Political Economy and the British journals, such as the Royal Economic Society's Economic Journal.

However understandable, this bias proved intolerable intolerable for technically-inclined economists - and a rival, worldwide organization, the "Econometric Society" and its journal Econometrica, was set up in the 1930s to fill the void left by the AER and other conventional journals. As the technical language of economics advanced, the AER has admitted increasingly technical papers - although its wide audience does not permit it to overextend itself in this respect.

Two more recent AEA journals have been instituted to help its mission. The Journal of Economic Literature, which usually contains a few wide literature surveys, book reviews and annotated listings of new articles and abstracts in economics, is the reference journal of the profession. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, devoted exlusively to accessible articles and surveys of economic ideas and debates, serves as the communication line between increasingly incomprehensible professional economists and the more general pubic.

The second accusation has been regarding the mid-winter meetings of the AEA. These have been a greater cause of consternation than the AER largely because the programs, usually organized the presidents, naturally exhibit their personal preferences and thus often exclude issues and groups which they dislike or feel do not deserve a hearing. Although many presidents attempt to be magnanimous in their coverage, heterodox economics is often shunted out of the formal AEA conference programs - although many heterodox organizations set up their own separate meetings at the same time.

The third accusation that the AEA has also borne in the past is that it is biased in its very lack of bias! For the most part, the AEA has adhered to the idea that it should make no pronouncements, as an organization, regarding any economic, social or political programmes. The one exception to this rule is that it (sometimes) speaks, as an organization, against political attempts to curtail freedom of speech and academic research. Many economists have often felt uncomfortable with that: the AEA's refusal to take a position about the Vietnam War, for example, divided its members.

The American Economic Association has also been a fountainhead of professional accolades for economists to gather over time and attach to their sleeves. Ever since 1885, the American Economic Association has elected a member of the American profession to its presidency more on the basis of merit than on organizational ability. Its most watched award is perhaps the John Bates Clark Medal - which as instituted in the 1940s and is awarded every second year to a promising young economist under the age of forty. Every year since 1962 it also gives out a Distinguished Fellow award to one or two American economists - perhaps in fear that several deserving economist might miss out on the more conventional awards!

Previous to the Nobel Prize, the most prestigious prize in economics might have been the Francis A. Walker Medal, awarded every five years for outstanding lifetime achievements. It was discontinued after the Nobel made it superfluous. Finally, in the 1960s, the AEA instituted the Richard T. Ely Lecture, an address given by renowned economists at the AEA Conference - which is not confined, as its other awards usually are, to American economists (however, they can receive Foreign Honorary Memberships). The Richard T. Ely Lecture and the Presidential Address to the AEA are often the two favorite places that the great and distinguished members of the profession finally get to air their long-held grievances and complaints against it and bitch about each other.



Instituted in 1947 by the American Economic Association and awarded every five years to established economist for lifetime work, or rather "to the living American economist who in the judgement of the awarding body has during his career made the greatest contribution to economics". Named after early American economist, Franics Amasa Walker. The creation of the Nobel Memorial Prize has made the Walker Medal effectively superfluous as a cap on a career - thus it was discontinued in 1981.


Instituted in 1947 by the American Economic Association and awarded every second year to a promising young economist - i.e. "to that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge". Named after early Neoclassical economist, John Bates Clark, it is widely considered to be the profession's most coveted award -- exceeding, perhaps, even the Nobel Memorial Prize in prestige.


Distinguished lecture to the AEA, instituted in 1962 and not confined to Americans. Named after early Institutionalist economist and founder of the AEA, Richard T. Ely.

特選フェロー (Distinguished Fellows)

Established by the AEA in 1965, this is awarded annually to not more than two "economists of high distinction in the United States and Canada". All Walker medallists and presidents are also awarded the title of "Distinguished Fellow" automatically.


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