Eric M. Leeper
Rudy Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Professor, University of Virginia
By the time I arrived at IU in 1995, Wick had been retired for a few years and was well into the most productive research phase of his career. With astonishing regularity he published three deep books about banking crises: in 1996, 2000, and 2005. At publication of these books, Wick was 70, 74, and 79 years old. Think about that. Most economists stop doing serious research by the age of 50, having run out of ideas, patience, or enthusiasm. Wick was well endowed in all three.
Elmus's first book, published in 1966, challenged the lions of monetary history—Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz. Wick didn't buy into the monetarist doctrine that underlay Friedman and Schwartz's explanation of the source of the Great Depression, a doctrine that continues to dominate interpretations of the Depression and inflation dynamics to this day. Think about the courage it took. Wick stood alone in arguing that the story of the Depression is more nuanced and complicated than the conventional wisdom: an inept Federal Reserve permitted the money supply to contract enough to morph an economic downturn into a prolonged depression.
Wick didn't suffer fools in any fashion. But those who knew Wick will remember his gentlemanly delivery of criticism when he thought an argument went astray. We will also remember how his eyebrows took on a life of their own whenever a seminar speaker made a historically unfounded claim. Elmus was an unforgettable figure.
Today we face many of the same formidable challenges that confronted economists in the 1930s. Economies around the world are struggling to survive an event unlike anything modern society has experienced. Conventional wisdom has little to offer in this environment. Effective answers to today's questions require economists with the fortitude and open-mindedness that were hallmarks of Wick's intellectual life.