The Veblen-Clark series was established in 1985 to honor the memory of the two most illustrious economists ever to be associated with Carleton College.

Thorstein Veblen, born in 1857, spent much of his youth on a farm in Nerstrand, Minnesota, just 10 miles south of Northfield. Veblen graduated from Carleton with a bachelor of arts degree in 1880. He went on to earn a PhD at Yale University.

John Bates Clark, a young economist, joined Carleton’s faculty at the time of Veblen’s matriculation. Clark had been educated at Amherst College and at the University of Heidelberg. He was hired as both Professor of Political Economy and History and College Librarian. He remained at the college until 1881.

While Veblen and Clark had a mutual respect for each other’s intellect, they held dramatically divergent views regarding human behavior, social science, and economics. Each would leave Carleton to establish trails in economic theory which would be heavily followed but leading in markedly different directions.

After leaving Carleton, Clark went on to teaching positions at Smith College, Amherst College, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. He was one of the pioneers of the use of marginal analysis to understand issues of resource allocation and income distribution. Among his most important contributions are The Philosophy of Wealth (1886) and The Distribution of Wealth (1899). He is considered to be one of the true founders of modern mainstream economics. The John Bates Clark medal is the highest honor awarded by the American Economics Association.

Veblen, on the other hand, forcefully challenged the foundations of mainstream economic theory. After experiencing some difficulty in landing a teaching position, Veblen’s brilliance finally overcame a variety of quirky personality traits. He obtained teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Stanford, and the University of Missouri. His most influential work is The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), in which fundamental economic paradigms are called into question.

The Veblen-Clark Lectureship brings an outstanding scholar in economics to Carleton each year for a public lecture and meetings with students and faculty. The lectureship presumes no ideological bias, but celebrates the variety of viewpoints and paradigms demonstrated by Veblen and Clark that have historically enriched the study of economics at Carleton.

The lectureship is made possible, in part, by the Ada Harrison Fund. The fund was established to honor Professor Ada Harrison, who taught in the economics department for many years and exemplified the department’s continuing commitment to teaching excellence.

Thomas Sargent
Professor Thomas Sargent

Nobel Prize in Economics Winner is the 2023 Veblen-Clark Lecturer!

October 26, 2023Sources of Artificial Intelligence by Dr. Thomas J. Sargent, William R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Business, NYU and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Sargent’s talk delved into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), looking closely at the foundational tools computer scientists use to create and enhance it. His discussion centered around a paradox: the tools that computer scientists deploy come from subject areas in which cognitive psychologists tell us that thousands of years of evolution has left us cognitively disabled. Sargent traced the origins of AI back to the contributions of figures like Galileo and Darwin, highlighting how the interplay between AI and our inherent cognitive limitations can guide our educational pursuits from high school through college and beyond.

Dr. Sargent was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economics, shared with Princeton University’s Christopher Sims, for his empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy.

Prior to teaching at NYU, Sargent taught economics at the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago and Stanford University. He has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution since 1987.

Professor Sargent is past president of the Econometric Society, the American Economic Association and the Society for Economic Dynamics.

Previous Veblen-Clark Lecturers