Warsh, David 1944–

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Warsh, David 1944–

(David Lewis Warsh)


Born May 25, 1944, in New York, NY; son of Leo George and Annis Meade Warsh; married Hope Tompkins; children: Molly Annis, Lucy Alexis. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1972.


Home—West Somerville, MA. E-mail—[email protected].


Journalist and writer. City News Bureau, Chicago, IL, copyboy and reporter, 1963-64; staff reporter at Keene Evening Sentinel, New Hampshire, 1965; staff reporter for Pacific Stars and Stripes, 1968-69, and stringer for Newsweek, 1969-70, both in Saigon, South Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam); Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, staff reporter in Pittsburgh, PA, 1972; Wilmington Morning News, Wilmington, DE, business writer, 1972-74; Forbes, New York, NY, associate editor, 1974-77; Boston Globe, Boston, MA, economics writer, 1978-2002; proprietor of www.economicprincipals.com, an independent Web-based weekly.


Gerald Loeb Prize (two), University of California, Los Angeles, including 1977, for national magazine reporting; J.P. Morgan Prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, 2004.


The Idea of Economic Complexity, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.

Economic Principals: Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics, Free Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2006.


David Warsh once told CA: "Introducing a subject such as measurable complexity into the realm of public discussion isn't easy. My first book, The Idea of Economic Complexity, approaches its topic straight up the middle…. There is a growing community of theorists with a direct interest in economic complexity. These include Hans Gottinger, Peter Albin, Janos Kornai, and mathematical programmers in general. Since I myself am no theorist, I am with relief pulling back from the somewhat exposed vantage of the first book to a more conventional journalistic position. Here I find myself in the company of authors in quite different fields with somewhat similar perspectives: Charles Newman, who wrote The Post-Modern Aura, and William Poundstone, author of The Recursive Universe.

"In my job as economics writer for the Boston Globe, daily newspapering amounts to a kind of dual citizenship. I am both a reporter and an author who covers other authors, and this has advantages and disadvantages. My beat gives me a certain standing and permits me to write in the newspaper, mostly whenever I wish, about issues that are close to my authorial heart. At the same time, I am obligated not to represent my views as being more widely accepted or fully developed than they are, and I occasionally find myself in a subtle and troubling conflict of interest when I write about persons who are associated with rival views.

"When conflicts do arise, I sometimes find that it is desirable to create a ‘Chinese wall’ between my own interests and those of the person about whom I'm writing for the Globe—I simply pretend I don't have anything to say. At other times, I try to indicate to the reader that I have a strong view on the matter, or simply assume that he or she will know. My rule for deciding when to introduce a topic is the standard journalistic test of relevance. And since I write twice a week, I think that regular readers have ample opportunity to identify my bias and adjust for it."

Warsh's next book after his The Idea of Economic Complexity, titled Economic Principals: Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics, is a collection of some of the author's weekly column that he wrote for the Boston Globe, titled "Economic Principals." The essays range widely from profiles of personalities who dominate economics to a discussion of the history of controversies in economics. "Warsh is a good-natured guide, cheerfully leading the reader through even some of the more difficult terrain of economic thought," wrote Kenneth Silber in Reason.

In his 2006 book, Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, the author provides a tour of modern economics with a focus on one of its most important breakthroughs. According to New York Times Book Review contributor Paul Krugman, the book "is the story of an intellectual revolution, largely invisible to the general public, that swept through the economics profession between the late 1970's and the late 1980's." Specifically, the author tells the history of the growth theory, an economic paradox identified by Adam Smith in the eighteenth century. Following the history of economics through to the twentieth century, the author turns his focus to Paul Romer, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in 1980 who decided to tackle the puzzle. The author follows Romer as he grapples with Smith's growth theory and produces the important 1990 paper titled "Endogenous Technological Change." Warsh goes on to describe the formidable mathematical paper and its impact on modern economic thought.

Library Journal contributor Lawrence R. Maxted noted that the author relates "the story of how the growth of human knowledge finally became incorporated into mainstream economic theory." Krugman wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "If you like reading stories of high intellectual drama, if you want to know the origin of ideas that, as Keynes said, ‘are dangerous for good or evil,’ this book is for you."



Booklist, May 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, p. 58.

Fortune, April 19, 1993, David R. Henderson, review of Economic Principals: Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics, p. 155.

Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Lawrence R. Maxted, review of Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, p. 109.

Los Angeles Times, December 23, 1984, Harvey Rosenfield, review of The Idea of Economic Complexity, p. 6.

New York Times Book Review, May 7, 2006, Paul Krugman, "The Pin Factory Mystery," review of Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations.

Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1993, review of Economic Principals, p. 81.

Reason, August-September, 1993, Kenneth Silber, review of Economic Principals, p. 68.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations.


Economic Principals Web site,http://www.economicprincipals.com/ (May 9, 2008), brief profile of author.

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations Web site,http://kwonbook.com/ (May 9, 2008), brief profile of author.