Sunday, August 17, 2014

Correction: Debreu was not so dishonorable

Writing too quickly last week about Finding Equilibrium: Arrow, Debreu, McKenzie and the Problem of Scientific Credit, by Till Düppe and E. Roy Weintraub (Princeton University Press, 2014), [Economic Principals] made a serious mistake, combining one misfortune with another and blaming both on Gérard Debreu, the Nobel laureate, who died in 2004.

Robert Anderson, of the University of California at Berkeley, wrote, “I was astonished to read the following statement in the August 11 [EP] article:”
Further details had emerged, including an astonishing fact: the anonymous referee, who bottled UP McKenzie’s submission to Econometrica for a critical time, while Arrow and Debreu tidied up their proof, was none other than Debreu himself; and Debreu hadn’t disclosed his conflict of interest to the editor, Robert Solow. Debreu’s conduct was thus revealed as having been dishonorable.
Anderson continued,
The chronology of the book makes it clear that it was [Leonid] Hurwicz and [John] Nash who held up the publication by failing to provide timely referee reports. The chronology states that Solow requested a referee report from Debreu on October 5, 1953; that on December 14, Strotz communicated to McKenzie that the reports were favorable and that Debreu submitted his final referee report recommending publication on December 17, 1953. That is fast refereeing by any standard. 
Furthermore, it indicates that on May 1, 1953, Solow noted the similarity between McKenzie’s paper and that of Arrow and Debreu. So Solow was fully aware of the situation when he asked Debreu to referee the paper. Debreu, however, did fail to notify Solow of the overlap between the Arrow-Debreu and McKenzie papers.
--David Warsh, Economic Principals, on an unfortunate smearing